I am a firm believer that bacon belongs in everything it tastes good in. Which to me, can be just about anything. Especially mac and cheese.
My mom, as most of you already know, likes her "fake" foods. She'd rather eat a Sam's club blueberry muffin, stir fry from the frozen foods section and box mac and cheese. I don't mind the Velveeta w/ the cheese sauce, which thankfully is what she gets. But I have to mask it. I will take a portion out of the pot and mix in black pepper and bacon pieces. I am not a fan of the stuff alone.
So I usually make my own... And she definitely doesn't like it. Oh well. She'll never change.
So when my parents were on vacay last week, it was dinner freedom!!!
I saw this episode of Cooking for Real w/ Sunny Anderson on Food Network and she made her Wheely Good Pasta and Cheese. It looked great, so when I went on search for a new mac and cheese recipe, I immediately thought of this.
After work, I went to Whole Foods and picked up a couple more cheeses I didn't have at home already and some bacon.
It was pretty easy to make and took a heck of a lot less time than you'd think.
Bacon Mac and 8 Cheeses
adapted from Wheely Good Pasta and Cheese
1 pound large elbow whole wheat pasta
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of milk
1/4 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Colby Jack cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Muenster cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Splash of tabascio sauce
1/4 cup of Italian-style bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 strips of fully cooked bacon
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. When the oven reaches full temperature, cook bacon on a wire rack, which is placed on top of a foiled lined cookie sheet. I cook bacon in the oven b/c then most of the grease settles in the cookie sheet instead of staying soaked into the bacon. It takes about 20 mins to fully cook the bacon, if you want to more crunchy than tender, which is better in this mac and cheese since the sauce will soften the bacon.
I took the opportunity to shred my cheeses while the bacon was cooking. You don't want the bacon to be dripping and still scalding hot when you toss it in the sauce, so you do it enough ahead of time so it has time to cool while you're doing everything else. By the time I was done shredding the cheese, putting a pot of water over the heat and getting my roux started, the bacon was done. I placed the cooked bacon on a plate w/ paper towels to soak up the excess grease.
Meanwhile, I added the butter to a pot and let it melt fully. Once melted, but not browning, I added the flour and whisked them together to form a roux. Sometimes, if the roux isnt thick enough, it's ok to ad a bit more flour untl you get the consistency you are looking for. Better to thicken the roux now than wait until your bechamel hasn't thicken up enough and have to add more flour then.
Once you have your roux, add the milk and whisk together. Let the milk increase in temperature, but don't let it bubble. It will end up burning the bottom of the pot. Whisk occasionally to keep the roux and milk together and keep from having the milk mixture burn at the bottom or sides of the pot.
When the milk is hot enough it should be thick, but not too thick yet. Remember, you still have to add the cheese, which will definitely thicken it up even more. Add you black pepper at this point. Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle in the cheeses, stirring constantly until all the cheese is completely melted. Once the sauce is done, add the bacon and mix.
By now, your pasta should be in the pot, boiling and almost done, if not already done (depending on when you started boiling the water).
Drain the pasta well, making sure to toss it in the colander w/ cold water to stop the cooking process.
Combine the pasta and sauce together, making sure that all of the pasta is coated in your cheese sauce. Take a 9x13 glass baking dish and spray w/ nonstick spray. Pour the coated pasta into the pan.
Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together and sprinkle over the pasta.
It's pretty heavy at this point, so I place the baking dish on a foiled lined cookie sheet, in case the sauce bubbled over.
I baked the mac and cheese for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.