Monday, January 24, 2011

Bacon Mac and Cheese

There's nothing quite like comfort food, especially on cold winter days. After a day full of running around, cleaning, and a couple hours at the gym, all I wanted was something warm and cheesy. And a little bacon never hurts, right?

This is another Cooking Light recipe. I originally saw it and thought of Pat, since he's a die-hard mac and cheese lover, but as I looked at the ingredients I knew I would love it, too. I consider myself a lover of all cheeses (except blue cheese) but extra sharp cheddar cheese has been my favorite since I was a kid. This recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar, so it was off to a good start.

I used this bacon from Trader Joe's because it doesn't contain any nitrates or nitrites (which are often found in deli meats and have been shown to cause cancer) and no preservatives were added to it.
Get your penne pasta cooking on the stove, until al dente. As that is going, prepare the ingredients for your cheese sauce. Cook and chop your bacon, slice your onions, shred your cheese and get out your favorite hot sauce! (Sriracha has become a favorite of ours).
Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
Gradually add 1 cup milk and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and let stand for 4 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese.
Add salt, onions, hot sauce, pepper and bacon; stir.
Add cooked and drained pasta; toss.
Spoon into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining cheese and bacon. Broil 7 minutes.
Once you have all of the ingredients ready, this mac and cheese was fast to prepare. I steamed some broccoli as I broiled the dish for a delicious meal.

At first I was a little bit skeptical about adding hot sauce to mac and cheese, but it gave the dish just a little extra warmth that was very good. The onions were another addition that I wouldn't have thought to put in, but added a lot to the depth of this dish (and normally you don't use the word "depth" to describe your average mac and cheese!). I loved this and so did Pat, and leftovers the next day were just as good! I'm sure this will be made many more times this winter.

Original Recipe from Cooking Light

  • 3 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 4 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
  • 2 cups finely shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 slices center cut bacon, cooked and chopped, divided
  • cooking spray

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Bring 6 quarts water and 1 tbsp salt to a boil. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until al dente.
  3. Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add 1 cup milk; bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until it cools to 155 degrees. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheese. Add 1/4 tsp salt, onions, hot sauce, pepper, and 2 slices bacon (chopped); stir. Add pasta; toss.
  4. Spoon into a 2-quart broiler-safe dish coated with cooking spray; top with 1/2 cup cheese and remaining piece of bacon. Broil 7 minutes.

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