Macaroni and cheese. What color comes to mind when I say that phrase? For me, it’s a bowl of creamy colored shell noodles bathed in an equally creamy sauce made from artisan cheeses. For my kids? A day-glo orange sauce coating tiny elbow noodles. A few years ago, I decided to show my kids what real homemade macaroni and cheese tasted like. They almost threw it in my face. It’s taken years, but thanks to this bacon infused macaroni and cheese, I’ve finally gotten them to accept homemade mac & cheese.
This bacon infused mac and cheese is good. Really good. I start with a mellow cheeses like a French comte that I punch up with a little parmesan. Then I crisp tiny chunks of bacon. And I boost the bacon flavor by using bacon fat instead of butter as the base of the cheese sauce. And to finish it all off? I top the whole extravaganza with crumbled corn bread stuffing. But the taste is only part of the reason why it’s become a family favorite.
The main reason my kids are sold on homemade mac and cheese? I never refer to it as mac and cheese. Why invite a comparison to the fluorescent orange stuff? They love what I call Mom’s Baked Bacon Noodles and that’s all that matters. This may smack a little of the Jessica Seinfeld sneak veggies in method, but I beg to differ. There’s no lying going on here. No hiding. Just a little rebranding.
To make sure there’s no confusion, I even use different noodles. Instead of the typical elbows, I use these crazy curly noodles from our local Italian cheese shop called Pastene Fusilli 23. You could also use orecchiette or egg noodles, or anything fun with some natural pockets to hide all of this lovely cheesiness.
If you’ve struck out before with homemade macaroni and cheese with the picky eaters in your crowd, give this recipe a try. It’s an easy solution for busy nights running around, just assemble it in the morning and rewarm it in the oven at dinner time for 20 minutes. You might even want to throw in a few veggies. And thanks to the rebranding of homemade mac and cheese, get ready for a dinner without any complaints, and even a possible compliment or two. It’s like music to my ears.
- 1 lb of your choice of non-elbow pasta, something with nooks and crannies for sauce
- 6 rashers of bacon (slices)
- 1 cup of Comte or swiss cheese
- 1½ cups of milk
- ¼ cup of grated parmesan
- 2 Tablespoons of flour
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 cup of crushed cornbread muffins or cornbread stuffing
- salt and pepper to your liking - we use 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of white pepper
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and put the noodles back in the pot. Set aside.
- Grate the comte (or swiss cheese) as well as the parmesan. Set aside.
- Cut the slices of bacon into ½ inch wide sections. Then cut again so they are ½ inch by ½ inch squares.
- Heat a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until just crispy. Leaving as much of the bacon grease in the pan as possible, remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel. Pat with the paper towel on both sides and set aside.
- Turn the heat up to medium high and add the flour to the bacon fat in the frying pan. Stirring frequently, cook the flour into a roux, for three to four minutes. You want all the bacon fat incorporated into the flour and to pan fry it long enough to cook the flour taste out.
- Now add the milk and stir well to full incorporate it. Bring the milk up to a boil, still stirring, until the mixture thickens.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the cheeses. Stir until completely melted and mixed in.
- Add the bacon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Stir and taste. Adjust the spices as needed.
- Pour the cheese sauce onto the noodles in the pan. Stir to mix completely.
- Pour the coated noodles into a large casserole dish.
- Top with the crushed cornbread. Optional: Dot with a few pats of butter. This may be like gilding the lilly so it's up to you.
- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes and serve hot, ideally with a nice green salad on the side.