Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rich & Creamy Mac & Cheese

As I've stated before, we are always looking for a better mac & cheese recipe as it is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate comfort food.  If you were of the poorer persuasion as a child, then you undoubtedly grew up with the store bought stuff in a blue box (we all know what brand I'm referring to, hopefully) and while that is a suitable quick fix, I've got a recipe that doesn't take very long that comes out better by several orders of magnitude.  This can be doctored any way you like.  I decided to go with bacon and green onions at Jen's request and I believe it worked beautifully.  But you could do roasted garlic, or leeks, or add green beans, or sausage or pepperoni, or whatever you like!  Incidentally, you can use almost any cheese, or cheeses, you want with this so get creative if you feel like it.  Just remember that the harder a cheese is, generally, the more oily it'll be when it melts.  I went with some Colby Jack as it's a good all around cheese for flavor and meltiness and also used some Smoked Gouda to stretch the smokey flavor without overpowering the dish with bacon (is there such a thing?).

To accompany this musically, I went with an old favorite, Down By Law.  Their album Punkrockacademyfightsong is a classic and one I've listened to so often that I know it by heart.  My favorite song on there is without a doubt 1944 so I went with that, though I listened to most of the album again, just to be sure.  It's that good.

Mac & Cheese
Time: 45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Serves: 4-6

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


  • 4-6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 lb Rigatoni or Rotini pasta (these hold the sauce well but use whatever you like)
In large stock pot or dutch oven, bring water and salt to a rolling boil.  Add the pasta and return to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and cook for 12 minutes or until your pasta is al dente.  Remove from heat and drain in a colander.  Place back in pot and cover till compiling the dish.

  •  2 strips thick cut bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream (if you like a thinner sauce also use an additional cup of whole milk)
  • 12 oz cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup green onion, diced
In a small skillet, heat bacon over medium high heat until crisp, 4-5 minutes, stirring as needed.  Drain off excess grease and set bacon aside.  In a 2 qt saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat and add shallots when the butter has melted.  Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until your shallots start to brown a little.  Add the flour and stir in thoroughly.  Reduce heat to medium low and brown the flour for 2 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper and heavy cream (milk as well if you are using it).  Return heat to medium high and bring the cream to a low boil.  Add 8 oz of the grated cheese, reserving a third for later use, and the green onions and crisp bacon.  Stir continuously until cheese has melted completely.

Add your cheese sauce to the drained pasta and mix thoroughly.  Spoon the cheese sauce and pasta into a 2 qt, glass baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, and place in the 350 degree oven for 5 -10 minutes or until the top cheese is melted.  Serve immediately and enjoy the cheesy creaminess!

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