Macaroni elbows smothered in a rich, creamy, cheesy sauce made from two types of cheese and topped with crisp, buttery garlic bread croutons.
If you’re looking for a mac & cheese recipe that’s both tasty and nutritious – you’ve come to the wrong place! Tasty I’ve got covered, but this mac & cheese is no health food. It took all my willpower to commit to the decadence of this dish (usually I’m compelled to sneak in vegetables wherever I can!), but this time the butternut and spinach were relegated to the fridge so I could make the most luscious comfort food pasta dish ever.
I like my cheese sauce to taste cheesy, but not over-the-top sharp, so a combination of cheddar and gouda is the perfect mix for me. You won’t find stilton or goat’s cheese in my sauce. My amazing cheeses came from Farmdrop, a new grocery delivery service that’s kind of like an online farmer’s market. They deliver fresh food directly from local producers at prices no more expensive than the supermarket. If you’re in London and want to try it for yourself, sign up at this link and they’ll give you a £40 credit! (Full disclosure: they’ll also give me a credit when you do your first shop, but I would still be recommending it even if they didn’t)
All good things start with bacon and onion, so they’re first into the pan. Also, allow me to introduce my precious child, Le Creuset. He arrived on my birthday this year, making me the happiest cast iron casserole mother in the world.
Macaroni elbows are the choice of the macaroni traditionalist, but if you’re feeling a little crazy any shape will do the trick. Farfelle, penne, shells, rigatoni… all valid options (unless you are my Fiancé and the mere suggestion of any of these as a substitute makes you look at me with an expression of disgust and disbelief).
Because two types of cheese just isn’t enough, a whole lot of grated parmesan gets mixed in with the garlic bread topping. The resulting crispy, garlicky, cheesy crust will be violently fought for when people go back for seconds, so have your battle plan prepared. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, and a light side salad in a token effort to at least try and get some vegetables in your face.
- 1 T oil
- 1 red onion finely diced
- 200 g smoked bacon
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1/2 t cayenne pepper
- 50 g butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 3/4 cup milk
- 160 g cheddar cheese grated
- 160 g gouda cheese grated
- 1 t mustard
- 350 g macaroni
- 1 bread roll (ciabatta or sourdough)
- 50 g butter
- 3 cloves garlic finely diced
- 50 g parmesan cheese grated
- 1/4 c parsley finely chopped
Heat oil in a large saucepan or stove-top friendly casserole dish, add onion and bacon and sauté over a medium heat until the onions have softened and the lardons have browned. Add the white wine and cook for a few more minutes, scraping off any caramelised brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Remove the onion and lardons from the pan and set aside.
Melt 50g of butter in the same pan over a low-med heat, and whisk in the flour to combine. Add the cream and ¾ cup of the milk, and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Pour in remaining milk one cup at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.
Add paprika, mustard, cheddar and gouda, and stir over a low heat until the cheese has melted and you have a luscious, smooth creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat and set aside.
To prepare the topping, melt 50g of butter in a small saucepan. Add garlic and sauté for a minute until lightly softened but not browned, then remove from the heat. Add bread cubes, parmesan and parsley and mix to combine until the bread soaks up all the garlic butter. Set aside.
Cook the pasta according to directions, but for two minutes less than the recommended time. While the pasta is cooking, preheat the oven to 180oC.
If you made the cheese sauce in an oven-safe dish, you can simply add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix through. If not, first transfer the sauce to a casserole dish that can go in the oven before you add the pasta.
Arrange the buttery garlic croutons on top of the mac & cheese, and bake uncovered in the oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown.