Today we will be putting a spin on the most comforting and straightforward of all recipes: macaroni and cheese. We are taking the creamy and cheesiness of this family night favorite and taking it to a whole new level. Three times more cheesy, creamy mixed with the salty flavor of the bacon, we guarantee you will never go back to your regular mac and cheese.
Tips for Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Choosing the Pasta
You can use any type of pasta you want or have for this recipe. The most commonly used macaroni and cheese pasta are called cavatappi or cellentani. A large elbow macaroni will catch more of that velvety cheesy sauce due to its shape. While heartier than standard elbow macaroni, you can use any type of short pasta.
Shells, elbows, gemelli – all work for this baked macaroni and cheese with bacon recipe.
The Best Cheese to Use for Macaroni And Cheese
The most important aspect of this recipe is the perfect combination of cheeses. To get the best taste and texture, you should opt for a cheese that melts well. Cheddar is the most used type of cheese as it gives a nice flavor, has a rich color, and melts very nicely.
For the best flavor, we recommend using a medium or sharp cheddar cheese. Don’t use the extra sharp aged cheeses as they tend to separate or get oily and do not melt well at high temperatures.
There are other types of cheese you can use instead of cheddar cheese, such as smoked gouda, American, Gruyere pepper jack, and so many others.
For this recipe, we will be using a blend of three different types of cheese, each bringing a distinct characteristic to our mac and cheese.
Medium sharp Cheddar to add that cheesy flavor and eye-catching orange color; Monterey Jack, and provolone (or mozzarella) all-white cheeses that add that extra creaminess and stretchiness we all love in our mac and cheese.
Whatever cheeses you decide to use, avoid the pre-shredded cheeses! Pre-shredded cheese cones with an anti-caking agent coating to prevent it from clumping up while it’s packaged, and when you melt them they will have a gritty texture.
What Type of Bacon Should You Use?
Any type of bacon will do for this recipe. You can reduce your prep time by using pre-cooked bacon or even pepperoni slices. If you go are going to use pre-cooked bacon, use 2 tablespoons of melted butter instead of the bacon fat to make your sauce.
The base of the cheese sauce is a roux—a combination of butter and flour—very similar to a bechamel sauce, but here we will be melting all our cheeses in it. You can experiment with this sauce by adding or changing up the ingredients, but the basic roux is quintessential here.
For a creamier sauce, you can use whole milk for a very rich and creamy texture, but you could add low-fat milk if that’s what you have available.
You can garnish your baked macaroni and cheese with bacon with some chopped parsley, green onions, or chives. Personally, I feel that herbs do not work so well with the recipe. Instead, I use some baked, crumbled crackers with some extra bacon and parmesan.
Can You Store Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese can be frozen and still be edible for up to 3 months. Store your mac and cheese in an airtight container or resealable bag to prevent freezer burn.
Can You Reheat Mac and Cheese?
Before reheating your macaroni and cheese, thaw the macaroni and cheese in the fridge, then place it in a baking dish. Cover the mac and cheese with tinfoil and bake it at 350F for 1 hour. Take off the tinfoil and bake it for another 10-30 minutes to get the top of the mac and cheese crispy and golden-brown.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon Recipe
What You’ll Need:
- 12 ounces bacon
- 16 ounces uncooked short pasta such as cavatappi or elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 12 ounces medium-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 cup of crumbled crackers
- In a large pan, place the chopped bacon and cook it over medium-high heat. Let the bacon sizzle for about 4-5 minutes, until its sides get crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and place it on paper towels to remove the extra grease.
- Leave in the pan 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and throw out the rest.
- Add two tablespoons of flour, then whisk for about 30 seconds until you have combined the ingredients.
- Add in the water slowly and whisk some more until your roux has thickened a bit.
- Now pour in your milk and whisk some more to combine it with the rest of the ingredients. At this point, you can add a bit of mustard to give it a bit of tanginess.
- Add your pasta, salt, and pepper, then let everything simmer for 10-12 minutes while stirring occasionally, until pasta the pasta has cooked.
- Take the heat to low, then add your cheddar cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese has melted completely. Add the Monterey Jack and provolone cheese (or mozzarella cheese if you want), and stir to get a smooth sauce.
- For a thinner sauce, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach the consistency you want.
- Add the crispy bacon to your macaroni and cheese.
- In a lined baking pan, pour your macaroni and cheese with bacon and let it bake for 10-20 minutes until you get a golden crisp on the top.
- Sprinkle the remaining bacon over the top.
This decadent baked macaroni and cheese with bacon is a hearty meal that will be your top go-to comfort dish at your weekend family dinners.