Wednesday, February 5

Smoky Bacon Baked Mac & Cheese

Happy Wednesday to you. This recipe is a gem that you'll definitely want to try!  I made it for the first time a week before Thanksgiving and then again just a few weeks ago. It works great as a potluck bring along, side dish or a main dish. This is comfort food at its best. 

Smoky cheese + smoky bacon + crunchy topping 
+ creamy whole wheat pasta = delicious!

Most people are looking for something healthy and light during the beginning of the year, but most people I know have kiddos. Kids love mac & cheese.  I love mac & cheese. On the family front, pasta is a great place to introduce a new veggie and or a new type of cheese to your kids or your hubby. Think of it as a delicious food exploration lesson versus the diet killer that it could be. But yes if you are on a diet serve this as a side dish with some grilled chicken, fish, or a burger sans the bun and a grilled/roasted vegetable. This recipe has some serious flavor and some serious calories hence me only making it once a month or so. 

Serves 3-5 as a main dish 
Prep + cooking time: 25- 35 minutes
Recipe lighted up and adapted from
(a fun blog with beautiful pictures)
Posted in collaboration with other bloggers at Whats Cooking Wednesday

half of a box of veggie or whole wheat short dry pasta (approx 5-7 oz)
2 Tbs butter + 1 1/2 Tbs melted in a separate dish via microwave
1 1/8 cup of 1 or 2 percent low fat milk
1/4 cup of whole wheat white flour
3/4 cup of half and half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 lb of smoked gouda or smoked cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
1/4- 1/2 lb of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
*optional I have added 3 cups of blanched broccoli into it before right before baking and worked out great
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs (depending on the size of your baking dish - you want the top completely covered - you'll use more if you have a rectangle sized dish). 
4-6 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled (I usually just make bacon earlier in the week and save some of it for this later)


1. Cook half of a box 1 minute short of the al dente cooking time of veggie shell pasta or your favorite whole wheat small cut dry pasta. Then drain it. Should end up being 6-7 minutes but do check your own box directions.

2. While pasta is cooking preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a baking dish with nonstick spray or some butter to prevent sticking.  

3. While pasta is still cooking make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat in medium sized- large pot. Then add the flour. Let it cook for a minute. Keeping the heat on medium add in the milk and half & half. Whisk it until the sauce begins to thicken. It should be boiling but not hard. Should take about 3-5 minutes for the sauce to get the consistency you want. Remove the entire pot from the heat and add in rest of the cheese sauce ingredients after it it is thickened. Trust me. Doesn't work well the other way. Add in the pepper, dry mustard, and grated or shredded cheese last. Once the cheese is melted you are done with the sauce almost. Taste it carefully - don't burn yourself. Add salt here if needed.

4. Add the sauce to cooked pasta or vise versa depending on which pot is biggest. Stir to coat the pasta with the cheese sauce and carefully pour the hot mixture into the baking dish. 

5. Top the baking dish with crumbled cooked bacon, panko bread crumbs, and last but not least a bit of melted butter to give that great golden yellow color. 

 6. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes uncovered. 


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