i never really understood the concept of a mac and cheese until a few years ago. i love pasta, but using only cheese as a sauce, seems very weird. it did not seem right. it did not sit well with me. i think you get what i mean.
my first encounter with the mac and cheese was not very good. i tried the blue box variety sitting in our pantry - this was before i learned how to cook, about 6 years ago. i followed the directions and hoped for the best. i poked the overcooked pasta doused with reconstituted cheese, ate it and i was filled with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. it was chalky and up until now, i can't figure out why shawn loves that thing.
it should be rich, creamy, smooth, filling with a crunchy top. there were a few places that had those features, but they tasted very different from each other. the use of different cheeses, topping and additional ingredients makes a whole world of a difference when it comes to the final product.
bacon and blue mac and cheese
1 lb short-cut pasta noodles (fusili, penne rigate, elbow)
1 lb bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 block (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups sharp cheddar
2-3 oz blue cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 stick (4oz) butter, melted
salt and pepper
1. in a large pot, place sliced bacon, turn up heat to medium high and cook bacon until crispy. it should yield about a cup of rendered fat. in another pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.
2. take out the cooked bacon and set it aside. and leave about 1/2 cup of bacon fat in the pot and saute the onions until transparent. add garlic and cook until soft.
3. once the garlic is soft, add flour and cook for 3-5 minutes until slightly golden. make sure you add salt and pepper as you go.
4. add milk and make sure you scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pot, this has a lot of flavor so don't forget this step.
5. once the milk has thickened, add the cheeses and stir until melted. mix in the cooked bacon and cooked pasta. stir until combined.
6. place the mixture in a 9x13in baking dish. combine melted butter and panko bread crumbs in a small bowl. top the mac and cheese mixture with the bread crumbs.
7. bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbling on the sides.