Baked Mac And Cheese With Bacon

NOT PCOS friendly but SOOO Good!

Hey Loves!

Here is another recipe that I wanted to share. This is definitely not clean eating but now and then there isn't a problem indulging in comfort food. This dish is not your classic mac and cheese, however, just my take on it. Instead of just cheddar cheese sauce with a bunch of elbow macaroni noodles, I used some aged white cheddar, some whole milk, some sauteed onions and garlic, some Peppered bacon and topped it with Panko bread crumbs to give it a wonderfully contrasting texture. It turned out absolutely delicious and not as heavy as a traditional mac and cheese, in my opinion, and the addition of some Aged White Irish Cheddar helps cut through the richness just a bit.

I've made this recipe a few times and I find it pretty simple. Like many of the recipes I submit, something like this could be perfect for busy mommies because you can pretty much just pop the ingredients into the Crockpot if you like and let it do its thing for a few hours. For the purposes of this post, I used my husband's cast iron skillet to do all of the baking in. So let's get started:

List of Ingredients:

Penne Pasta - 3 Cups
Whole Milk - 2 Cups
Fresh Thyme Three Cheese Pasta Sauce - 1 Cup
Kerrygold Aged White Irish Sharp Cheddar Cheese - 2 Cups, shredded
Unbleached White Flour - 3 Tbsp
Peppered Bacon - 3 Thick Slices (cut into small pieces)
Black pepper - 1 Tbsp, freshly ground
Panko Bread Crumbs - 1/3 Cup
Dried Basil - 1/2 tsp
Medium Sweet Onion - 1 onion, diced
Garlic - 3 cloves, finely chopped
Olive Oil - 2 tsp
Butter - 2 Tbsp

About 6 servings.


First thing is to get the pasta cooked up. Take the 3 cups of uncooked pasta and dump it into a large pot of boiling water with a splash of olive oil and a couple pinches of salt. Get it cooked it until it's al dente, about 10 to 13 minutes or until you bite into the noodle and it's cooked through but still firm. Once you're satisfied that the noodles are cooked, pour them out into a colander and strain the water out. Set it aside to continue draining. At this time, go ahead and set the oven to preheat to 375 degrees.

Now to start on my sauce. I shredded about 2 cups of the Irish sharp cheddar and set it aside. In the cast iron skillet, start cooking the bacon at a medium-low heat so it will be nice and crispy. When the bacon is almost done, go ahead and add the finely diced onion and set the heat to low so the onion starts to caramelize, it should take about 3 minutes or so, stirring often so it doesn't burn. Always remember that everyone's stove is different. Our apartment stove is garbage and is very inconsistent so we have to constantly adjust for the onions.

Once you start to see the onions get gold brown in color, you're going to add the garlic and let it cook for a minute, until it JUST BARELY starts to turn light brown, then add 3 tablespoons of flour to start a roux. Stir constantly until the flour starts turning almost golden brown, then add the cold milk to it slowly, whisking at the same time cause you don't want the sauce to clumpy. Yes, the bacon might get stuck in the whisk now and then, Oh Joy!!, but keep whisking it till all the milk is incorporated and it starts to look nice and smooth, like a white sauce. Now you want to add the 1 cup of pasta sauce and continue to whisk to get it incorporated into the sauce. Once the sauce has been incorporated really well, you want to start whisking in the sharp cheddar and watch this baby thicken nicely! Make sure you're whisking this constantly because you don't want this sauce to start burning the bottom. Getting a bit of brown going on is fine but no one likes burned cheese and bacon.

Once all of the cheese has melted go ahead and season with a a bunch of cracked black pepper and some Himalayan salt to your taste. Keep tasting the sauce as you go to make sure it is seasoned to your liking.

At this point, the sauce should be about done so go ahead and cut the heat off and dump the pasta into the pan, folding it into the sauce. I also, at this point, added 2 tablespoons of butter and folded it in to add just a little extra richness.  Once everything is nicely mixed and looks like mac and cheese, we are going to take this to a whole new level by sprinkling the panko bread crumbs over the top to give it a nice, crunchy texture to accompany the smooth richness of the sauce and the gentle pop of the pasta.

 This is how the beauty looks like before the oven eats it!

Bake the mac and cheese at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the dish though because it will go from golden brown to burned really fast if you're not careful. The sauce should be slightly runny but, no worries, it will thicken as it bakes.

Golden Brown Goodness!

At around the 25 minute mark, start checking to make sure the panko doesn't burn. Once it's all baked up, it's going to look like this yummy goodness above! Let this rest for about 10 minutes or so before digging in so that all of the juices reincorporate into the sauce but also so that you don't burn your mouth and tongue and wind up unable to taste this dish, because that would be very sad. It's a great idea to serve this on the side with some yummy steak or with a side of baked brussel sprouts or you can have it on it's own. I personally surprised my husband with this and a seared lamb steak for his lunch. He inhaled it so I'm pretty sure that means it's good! This recipe is definitely an indulgence.  I hope y'all enjoy it! Thank you!

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