There are few things I love more than cheese and bacon. Maybe a fresh grilled buffalo burger or steaming bowl of Pho, but I rarely crave anything more than I do a creamy, savory plate of mac’n’cheese. It’s hard to get right, too. I can’t even begin to describe how many times I’ve come home from a restaurant after having a serving of a dish with an impossibly creamy, tangy sauce, tried to replicate it, and wept alone on my sofa with bitter failure. I scoured the interwebz for the best recipe. You need to find that balance between the stringy cheese and the creamy one (god could I possibly use the word creamy more right now? Wow, Angella.)
My first experiment was with a roux. Cook flour in butter, mix in milk and then the cheese and viola. Except with a roux you always risk that sort of gritty floury texture and it’s never that flavor of just cheese. It always has that gluten-y undertone which takes away from it. It’s great for the casseroles but for a side dish well… it’s just not for me.
Several recipes I undertook went with velveeta. And I tried it. And yeah it wasn’t bad. It definitely had the cream-factor. But it also well… tasted like velveeta, and that wasn’t exactly what I was going for. Then it hit me, and I realized why be complicated? You want a creamy, cheesy mac’n’cheese? So mix cream and cheese.
BOOM! Yeah. I did it. And it was amazing.
Then what? Bacon? Yeah, eff yeah bacon. Bacon makes things better. All things better. Even chocolate, okay? It just does.
Now, the trick to this recipe is three things. 1- a stringy cheese like cheddar or colby jack or swiss if you want a bolder flavor, or even mozz if you want something super mild. 2- a soft cheese. I went with goat’s cheese because I just have this special love affair with goat’s cheese that I cannot describe into words. But you could use pretty much any soft, crumbles. Bleu, feta, gorgonzola (which yeah I know it’s a bleu but it’s like different than the standard bleu). I’d avoid ricotta because it’s really gritty and won’t mix into the cream well. 3- something salty and savory to sautee like bacon. But if you want to make this dish vegetarian, I’d recommend frying up some fresh garlic or maybe even some red peppers. You just need that edge.
So without further ado, here’s the recipe.
Oh and a little note before we begin- my pictures are total crap this time. It was storming like crazy yesterday (which is what prompted the craving for the dish) and my stove light burnt out and just… it was a mess. So yeah. Sorry.
Yeah you love me now, don’t you?
2 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni (though any small noodle will do, including rice noodles)
3- strips bacon
1- tsp chopped garlic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup goat’s cheese (or any softer cheese that crumbles)
1/2 cup cheddar (or any stringy, hard cheese)
1/4 cup feta
1 chopped tomato (roma works best, but you can also go with sundried)
1 tsp salt
Start by heating up your frying pan on medium. On a cutting board, dice your bacon into small pieces (remember the pieces will shrink when you cook, so go slightly larger than you want them to be when you eat it). Next chop up what will equal to about 1 tsp fresh garlic (or if you’re like me, spoon out from your pre-chopped garlic jar) and add both garlic and bacon to the pan. Give a good stir.
Begin to boil water for your macaroni. Remember, don’t add the macaroni noodles until the water is at a rolling boil. As that cooks, continue to stir the bacon until crispy. Once finished, remove from heat and drain about half to 2/3rds the bacon grease, reserving the rest in the pan to coat the noodles (you want no more than a tablespoon of grease in the pan).
In a sauce pan, began to heat up 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in between low and medium heat. Keep an eye on it and just before the cream begins to bubble, add in the cheddar and goat cheese, and tsp of salt. Whisk on medium heat until the cheese and cream are fully combined into the sauce.
Okay I know it looks super yellow and I blame that on my kitchen’s worst lighting EVER.
When the noodles are finished, drain and rinse under cold water to prevent them from overcooking. Shake dry, then add the noodles to the frying pan and with a wooden spoon or spatula, give the noodles, bacon, and garlic a toss together. When the noodles are coated, pour on the cheese mixture and stir until fully combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the chopped tomato and quarter cup of feta. Serve out individual portions of the mac’n’cheese and top with the feta tomato and serve.
I know, I posted this one already but it’s worth looking at twice. Mmm.
That’s it. That’s the whole thing! It’s too easy and too delicious. The only warning I have is beware the cheese belly, because it is a cruel summbitch. But so worth it.
Note: another add in which I did a few nights ago are black or green olives and roasted red peppers. Mix them in with the tomato-feta topping. So delish. So worth it.