This macaroni gratin, made with pasta, bacon, and two types of cheese, is no ordinary mac and cheese. It’s sublimely rich and ridiculously comforting. Definitely not something we’d kick out of bed. Here’s how to make it.
This delicious gratin is flavored with sharp Gruyère and smoky lardons. It’s served at the restaurant in individual casseroles, but it looks best at home in a great big dish. This makes generous portions or highly prized leftovers.–Keith McNally
Why it’s best to serve this macaroni gratin right away
Know how you sometimes turn the oven off but leave a casserole inside to keep it warm while stragglers slowly make their way to the table? Best not to try that with this macaroni and cheese. The authors caution that overbaking this gratin can cause the sauce to “break,” meaning that the butterfat in the cheese will separate from the milk solids, resulting in the dread curdled-looking, greasy-feeling gratin. Maybe your stragglers will learn to move it—or to like cold mac-n-cheese.
- 10-by-14-inch gratin or baking dish
- One (16-ounce) package elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces lightly smoked bacon cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 5 cups whole milk preferably whole
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter plus more for the dish
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 cups grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter a 10-by-14-inch gratin or casserole dish.
- Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the box. Drain, turn it into a large bowl, and toss it with the oil.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until brown but not crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and add to the cooked macaroni.
- While the macaroni and bacon cook, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a very gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
- In another saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to stir until a smooth, pale roux forms. Return the saucepan to medium heat and, still whisking steadily, begin ladling the hot milk into the roux, 1 cup at a time, waiting until one ladleful of milk is completely incorporated before adding the next.
- After all the milk has been added, continue to whisk until the sauce thickens and bubbles gently, about 2 minutes. Add the Parmesan, 2 cups of the Gruyère, and the salt and pepper, and stir until the cheese has completely melted.
- Pour the sauce over the macaroni and bacon, mix thoroughly, and pour into the buttered dish. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of Gruyère over the gratin and continue to bake for 10 minutes more, until the top is golden and crunchy.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Balthazar is my favorite New York City restaurant, so I was excited when this macaroni gratin landed in my path. I wanted a bit of Balthazar in my home and the recipe didn’t disappoint. This creamy macaroni takes you beyond comfort and lands you firmly in the bliss zone with bites of smoky bacon and crunchy Gruyère. What’s sometimes a side dish is transformed into a satisfying meal that leaves you wishing you were still hungry so you could devour more.
And it’s relatively easy to make. The hardest part about this dish is waiting for it to come out of the oven so you can eat it piping hot. The only thing missing is the Balthazar atmosphere, but if I take a bite and close my eyes, I’m almost there….
This mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. The sophisticated cheeses appeal to the grownup palate while the bacon satisfies the younger crowd. An easy family meal.
I halved the recipe to accommodate a smaller family, and it worked perfectly. Also, not being a fan of huge clean-ups, I altered the recipe a bit to make it a one-pot meal. I used an ovenproof pot to cook the pasta, then drained and set the pasta aside. Next, I fried the bacon in the same pot and wiped it clean before making the cheese sauce in it. Then I added the pasta and bacon back in and threw the whole thing in the oven.
Originally published January 14, 2021