Mac & Cheese. I think we have all had it at some point in our lives over the years and for me it is Comfort Food Number One. It’s the cheesy, warm pasta love that gets me every time. But unlike the boxed version with the orange powder, I found it to be a simple meal to make from scratch.
And I get to put in it exactly what I want. More sharp cheddar? Sure. Want it creamier? Sure, thin down the béchamel sauce and add cream. Eat it then and there, straight from the saucepan, or the next day – no problem.
But in this recipe I decided to make up a batch of my favorite pasta and take it to the next level with some spice, some different cheeses and our good friend bacon. After I made it the first time, I thought it would be great baked with a crunchy topping, too. And here it is, my new favorite.
Behold the Cheesy Bacon Jalapeño Mac & Cheese Bake!
First off I make a béchamel sauce so the cheese can melt and the creamy goodness coats each macaroni piece completely.
In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Cook this for several minutes until a golden brown and slowly whisk in the milk to avoid any lumps. Add the cheddar cheese and paprika, constantly stirring until all cheese is melted.
In another skillet slowly render and cook your bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble when cooled.
Next, start to cook your elbow macaroni al dente and drain. Don’t rinse this as you will be removing important starch needed to make this thicken the sauce even more. Add macaroni to the sauce and continue cooking the sauce with the pasta in it, on medium heat, for a couple of minutes.
Add cooked, crumbled bacon and chopped jalapeños and stir to incorporate completely with the mac and cheese. Pour the mac and cheese mixture into a buttered 8×8 pan.
Now we can add the crumbled goat cheese on top. It gets pretty sticky so make sure to spread it around, nice dollops of it. This will slowly melt in as you bake it.
In a mixing bowl add the melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, toss with a fork to lightly coat. Add the chopped cilantro and mix thoroughly to combine. Sprinkle this crumb mixture on top of the goat cheese.
At this point you can either allow this to cool down, cover and refrigerate to set up or bake it. I waited for the next day to bake it because I had already planned a dinner and wanted the flavor to really meld overnight.
The next day I let this come to room temp and baked it for 30 minutes at 350°. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and firm up a little. Cut into squares and serve.
I first served this with some beautifully braised short ribs, but found myself eating it all by itself the next day for lunch. Pasta, bacon and cheese for lunch, yahoo!
This is so good and I loved the tangy flavor of the goat cheese mixed with the sharp cheddar cheese. Feel free to mix and match whatever are your favorites cheeses.
The crunchy Panko and butter topping crisped up and browned perfectly and the little poke of flavor from the cilantro comes through, too. Delicious!
- 3 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 and ½ cups milk
- 1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp paprika
- ⅓ cup goat cheese, softened
- 10 cooked bacon strips, diced
- ½ cup finely chopped canned jalapeños
- kosher salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
- In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for several minutes until a golden brown and slowly whisk in the milk to avoid any lumps. A
- dd the cheddar cheese and paprika, constantly stirring until all cheese is melted.
- Cook elbow macaroni al dente and drain. Add macaroni to the sauce and continue cooking the sauce with the pasta in it, on medium heat, for a couple of minutes.
- Add cooked, chopped bacon and chopped jalapeños and stir to incorporate completely with the mac and cheese.
- Pour the mac and cheese mixture into a buttered 8x8 pan and crumble chunks of the goat cheese on top.
- In a bowl mix the Panko breadcrumbs, melted butter and chopped cilantro and crumble mixture on top and bake.
- Allow to cool slightly and set up. Cut into squares and serve.
Inspired by Julia’s Album.