When looking for inspiration for my macaroni and cheeses, I tend to turn to stuffed potatoes and omelets, believing that what works well with eggs and potatoes would be delicious with pasta, too. And boy, is this right! Bacon, Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and scallions are classic additions to stuffed potatoes, and with pasta they’re perfection. This dish is a cinch to make and can be easily doubled—which you’ll want to do, because once your gang tastes it, they’ll certainly want more.–Lisa Schroeder
LC Faster, Faster! Note
At Mother’s, as at many restaurants, they prepare a lot of ingredients in large batches ahead of time, like the bacon crumbles for this macaroni and cheese, says chef Lisa Schroeder. She expains that she makes things easier on herself by following this advice in her home kitchen, too. She typically tries to fit the work into a recipe she’s already making so she’s not getting pots and pans dirty just for the heck of it. Take, for example, this macaroni and cheese recipe. She’ll cook twice the amount of bacon that she needs for it and save the rest in the fridge or freezer for scrambles or sandwiches. (Uh, this wouldn’t work so well for us, seeing as we’d just nibble it while we’re waiting for the macaroni and cheese to be done. But perhaps you’ve more self-control than us.) She also notes that dicing slippery, floppy bacon is tricky, so she firms it up with a 10- to 15-minute stint in the freezer. Stacking the strips before slicing makes even quicker work of the task. Well, again, provided you have any bacon left over to slice.
Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Hands-On Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes | Serves 4 to 6
- 1 pound fusilli (corkscrew) or other similarly shaped pasta
- 3/4 pound bacon, diced
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups firmly packed shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts), for garnish (optional)
- 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously so it tastes like the sea. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot, but do not rinse it as you want to keep the surface starches that will help thicken the cheese sauce.
- 2. Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bacon and sauté until browned and crisp, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to prevent scorching. This should take about 5 minutes total. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the bacon to paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain.
- 3. Carefully pour the bacon drippings from the pan into a metal can or heatproof cup (not down the drain or you’ll potentially clog your pipes). Return the pan, with a surface just barely slicked with bacon drippings, to medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the cream is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.
- 4. Add the Cheddar cheese and bacon, stir well, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until the cheese has melted and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
- 5. Dump the sauce onto the cooked, drained pasta in the pot and toss to coat. Place over medium heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring now and then, to allow the sauce to thicken and the pasta to absorb the flavors.
- 6. Scoop the mac and cheese into individual bowls and, if desired, top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.
Lorraine Mac & Cheese Variation
- You can easily change up this recipe by using the classic flavors of a quiche Lorraine for inspiration. Just add caramelized onions and substitute Swiss cheese for the Cheddar.
Here’s how I make mine: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons grease from the cooked bacon. Add 2 cups of finely sliced yellow onions and sauté over medium heat until soft, brown, and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Pour in the 3 cups of cream and continue with the recipe (step 3), substituting firmly packed shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese for the Cheddar.
If you have cooked, crumbled bacon and caramelized onions on hand, the recipe is even easier. When stirring the cheese into the reduced cream, just add 1 cup bacon crumbles and 1/2 cup caramelized onions, too. Then proceed with the recipe.
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Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese Recipe © 2009 Lisa Schroeder with Danielle Centoni. Photo © 2009 Ellen Silverman. All rights reserved.