Mac & Cheese is arguably on everyone’s list of favorite comfort foods. Although, I didn’t have it very often as a child, I certainly enjoy it now, especially during these cold winter days. My version uses two types of cheese and a touch of cumin. But, feel free to tweak it for your own taste. Try adding different types of cheese and other fresh or dried spices, like thyme or oregano. The more you customize it, the more comforting it is.
This recipe is for eight, but you can easily cut it in half for only four servings. You can also prepare this in a large baking dish as opposed to individual ramekins.
Mac & Cheese with Bacon
makes 8 individual 12 ounce servings
1 lb Elbow Pasta
6 Slices Bacon, diced
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 small Onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
5 tbl Butter
3 tbl Flour
2 tbl Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Freshly Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
4 1/2 cu 2% Milk, heated (not boiling)
5 cu Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated (I used a combination of regular and white)
1 1/2 cu Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated (or regular parmesan cheese)
1 cu Panko Bread Crumbs
8 individual 12-ounce oven safe baking dishes (ramekins)
Bring 4-6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta to pot and boil for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.
Put bacon in a large saucepan over medium high heat and sauté until it becomes slightly translucent and starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic and lower heat to medium low. Saute for 5-7 minutes until onions are tender and bacon is cooked but not crispy. Drain ingredients on a paper towel and aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Clean saucepan with a paper towel and return it to a medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and the flour. Stir constantly until ingredients combine, about 2 minutes. Whisk in hot milk until fully blended. Add Dijon and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 5 cups of cheddar cheese and reduce heat to low to avoid boiling. Stir until cheese is fully melted and incorporated. Sauce should be creamy and thick.
Mix together pasta and bacon mixture in a large bowl. Pour cheese mixture on top and stir to combine. Divide mixture among 8 baking dishes. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Top each baking dish with the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow ramekins to rest for 10 minutes before serving.