For People Who Think Mac and Cheese is Too Healthy
Goddamn I hate winter. I’d be fine with winter if it was a place, like Narnia, where you could just go when you felt like skiing or getting in snowball fights with elves or hanging out with Santa, but as a three-to-five month takeover of my life, I could really do without. But I love that winter gives you the excuse to cook insanely rich meat-and-cheese-filled foods, all in the name of “warmth” and “comfort.” Bye-bye refreshing fall salads, hello hearty mac and cheese!
Everyone’s got their own mac and cheese recipe, so I figured it was high time to come up with one of my own. After reading up on the basics and realizing just how much cheese (and milk and butter) goes into making a yummy m&c, I fleetingly considered doing something healthy, perhaps with spinach and mushrooms. I think we all know that didn’t happen. Not when I had all that leftover bacon hanging around in my freezer. Thanks to all your frying tips, I cooked up some sizzling bacon, chopped up a few of my fav veggies (roasted red peppers), improvised with bacon-soaked garlic, and created this delicious and nutritious recipe. Save the spinach for spring.
Bacon Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Mac and Cheese:
– Boil water and cook 1 pound (a box) of mini shells to al dente. You can use elbows if you’re a purist, but I’ve never understood why mac and cheese has to be made with that specific kind of pasta. The mini shells soak up the cheeses and stick together just as well.
– Meanwhile, fry seven slices of bacon until they are just crispy. Don’t cook to full crispiness because they will cook a bit more in the oven. Set the bacon aside and try not to eat all of it.
– Mince 4 cloves of garlic and cook these on very low heat in the bacon grease, until golden brown. Remove from heat and try not to eat all of these either, they are friggin tasty.
– Grate 2 cups of cheddar cheese.
– On low heat, melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter. When butter is melted, add 1/4 cup of flour and whisk quickly until there are no lumps.
– Gradually add 3 cups of milk, continually whisking. Cook the mixture on low for about 10 minutes until it starts to thicken, and then add your cheddar. Mix until the cheese is absorbed and then remove from heat.
– Lay the pasta out in a casserole dish and pour the cheese mixture over it.
– Break the bacon into bite-sized pieces and distribute throughout.
– Dice 2 roasted red peppers and add these to the casserole. Mix everything together to ensure it’s all evenly distributed.
– Spread the garlic evenly over the top.
– Grate a thin layer of Parmesan cheese over the top.
– Sprinkle with a very thin layer of Italian breadcrumbs.
– Bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until breadcrumbs are browned.
Obviously, this is as rich as they come, but also not overbearingly filling like other macs that use twice as much cheese. I’m eating it for leftovers right now, and it’s even better, as the bacon flavor has absorbed through into every bite. Mmmm.