One of the best things about baked macaroni and cheese is that it lends itself to many variations, such as this one containing bacon and pickled jalapeno peppers—a real crowd-pleaser.
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni (3 cups)
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 cup finely minced onion
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups whole or 2-percent fat milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (2 cups)
- 1/2 cup drained, pickled jalapeno pepper slices, halved
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, or 1/2 cup dried
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Cook the bacon on a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain in a colander.
4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until softened.
Stir in the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
5. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until mixture thickens and bubbles, about 6 minutes. Stir in the mustard and cayenne pepper.
6. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Add the pasta, bacon, and the pickled jalapeno peppers to the cheese sauce and toss to coat. Scrape the mixture into a 9 - by- 13-inch baking dish.
8. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
9. Bake the casserole until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
• To ensure that the sauce is smooth, add the cheese in small batches, stirring until smooth before adding the next batch.
• Adding salt to the pasta water is an essential step, as it adds flavor. When pasta is cooked in unsalted water, no matter how flavorful the sauce, the pasta will taste bland. Use coarse salt, adding about 1 tablespoon per pound of pasta.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Total Fat||33 g|
|Saturated Fat||16 g|
|Unsaturated Fat||11 g|
|Dietary Fiber||4 g|