Necessary Eats: Bacony Mac and Cheese

by Kisha on October 13, 2012 // 1 Comment

I love bacon. I loved bacon before it was cool to love bacon.

For the first edition of Necessary Eats, it only makes sense to feature a dish with bacon. Sizzling bacon with three fancy cheeses and the perfect blend of spices make for the perfect mac and cheese.

When it comes to food, I become quite the perfectionist. I researched and tested over 15 Mac and Cheese recipes to come up with THE one. My “research” also included several conversations with the cheese experts at my local Whole Foods to identify which work best based on taste, meltability and depth of flavor. Yeah, it’s pretty serious stuff. I recently made this for my best friend’s engagement party and it was an absolute hit!

Throughout the recipe, I pointed out where you can make healthy substitutions that won’t affect the flavor but will help in cutting down the calories. Here we go!

Bacony Mac and Cheese 

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni | SUB: Whole wheat or Dreamfield’s Healthy Carb Living Elbow (this is the only brand of pasta we have at my house. It’s healthy and tastes great)
  • 5 slices Wright Maple Bacon (As a proud Sam’s Club member, I have acces to Wright Maple Bacon 24/7. If you can’t find it, any thick cut bacon will work.
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Light brown sugar
  • 4 cups milk (Skim milk works fine here!)
  • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour | SUB: Use whole wheat flour — which is now pretty popular and can be found at your local grocery store
  • 1.5 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar
  • 1.5 cups diced smoked Gouda
  • 1.5 cups shredded Yancey’s Fancy Hot Stuff Buffalo Cheddar (this stuff is incredibly delicious and potent! Other than bacon, this cheese MAKES the dish.)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (dried parsley can be used to be it is not nearly as tasty!)
  • 5 slices Wright Maple Bacon (As a proud Sam’s Club member, I have acces to Wright Maple Bacon 24/7. If you can’t find it, any thick cut bacon will work)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente and drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a cookie sheet pan with aluminum foil and lay out bacon slices. Sprinkle the slices with cayenne pepper and brown sugar, flip the slices over and repeat. Remember Cayenne is spicy so be careful! (Best part of cooking bacon in oven? Your whole house smells delicious for a few hours.

Place in oven and bake for 10-15 mins or until bacon has reached it’s tasty crispiness. Remove from oven and place on a plate with paper towel to drain the extra fat. Let cool and chop bacon into 1/3 inch strips.

In a saucepan heat the milk with the thyme. In a separate deep skillet, melt the butter (you can add some of the bacon fat, I won’t tell..) and add onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook for a 1 minute, stirring constantly (You’ve just made a roux!). Remove the thyme from the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Keep whisking until it is nice and smooth. Stir in the 3.5 cups of the cheese and continue to cook and stir to melt the cheese. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Add the majority of the cooked bacon, the cooked macaroni and half of the parsley and fold everything in to coat the macaroni.

Pour into a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese, bacon and panko breadcrumbs and parsley.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot and bacony!

 

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