This bacon and Cheddar macaroni and cheese is proof that bacon makes everything better…though the creamy Cheddar sauce that smothers the fusili pasta is pretty special, too.
When looking for inspiration for my macaroni and cheese, 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
What’s the best cheese combination for macaroni and cheese?
While we’re not at all averse to combining cheeses, even as many as four cheeses in a macaroni and cheese, most nights we actually prefer the straightforwardness of the resounding flavor of nothing but Cheddar cheese. Call us purists.
Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound fusilli (corkscrew) or other similarly shaped pasta
- 3/4 pound bacon diced
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups (8 oz) firmly packed shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 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)
- 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 to help thicken the cheese sauce.
- 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.
- Carefully pour the bacon drippings from the pan into a metal can or heatproof cup (not down the drain). 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Scoop the mac and cheese into individual bowls and, if desired, top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This was probably the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever made. Who knew such few ingredients and uncomplicated techniques would render something truly memorable?
I kept this simple and went with the original bacon and Cheddar macaroni and cheese version with no variations. I figured that aside from myself, the next best person to taste this recipe would be my mother. We kids grew up on my mother’s macaroni and cheese, so with a nervous phone call I invited her to join me for dinner. Upon first bite her eyebrows raised as she turned and looked to me, my heart raced. “This is some really good mac ‘n cheese.” Whew, I got mother’s stamp of approval while I was already reveling in the rich creaminess and the bacon goodness. With ease, this will most certainly be my go-to mac ‘n cheese recipe from now on! Can’t wait to try this with a buttered crumb crust, just like mom’s.
This macaroni and cheese recipe was so rich and creamy! The bacon added a little savory taste and extra indulgence to the recipe. The garnish of scallions and sour cream were not needed for this, but I ended up mixing in the sour cream (after I tried it first) to the dish to make it super creamy. This dish also worked out great when put into a 9-by-9-inch pan, topped with bread crumbs, and reheated in the oven for an easy make-ahead dinner.
The bacon was very easy to make and there were no issues with getting the cheese sauce to come together. It was so easy to make, in fact, that I think it will be fun to try different cheeses and add-ins to spice it up a little bit. I did use store-brand corkscrew pasta instead of the pasta specified, and it worked out great. This dish is going to become a staple at my house because we generally have all these ingredients at home and the recipe was so easy to follow.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This macaroni and cheese recipe came together quickly and easily, with ingredients that were already on hand. In fact, it took longer to cook the pasta then it did to make the sauce. This dish is so rich, that small portions are more than filling. The bacon adds a nice meaty, smoky touch. Forget the stuff in the blue box!