This weekend a car full of my favorite ladies drove from New York to Chicago on a roadtrip. I wanted to make something delicious for them and I pretty quickly decided on Macaroni and Cheese. Mostly because, like me, my dear friend Tini can’t get enough cheese. She asks for extra cheese on everything and usually is upset because it still isn’t enough (lucky for her, she has the metabolism of a hummingbird). In honor of Tini and our mutual love of cheese, I decided to try to combine a few of our favorite things into one perfect dish of baked pasta.
I combined penne with a rich creamy sauce of sharp cheddar and Parmesan which was made even more delicious by the addition of bacon and red pepper flakes. The whole thing was topped with a buttery, crunchy layer of panko bread crumbs and extra cheese. It was perfect served with a simple herb salad, some blackberries in mint syrup and a cocktail of orange juice, proseco and Aperol. The pasta was a big hit and will definitely be a regular at our house. While this was one of the best things I have made in a while, food really does taste better when your friends are there to share it with you. (Come back, come back!)
One of the dangers of cooking good food and having my apartment full of my favorite people is that I can get distracted. I didn’t remember to photograph this until it was almost all gone. You can take that as a testament to this mac’s awesomeness. This is the only mac and cheese recipe you’ll ever need!
Mac + Cheese (Lottie + Doof Style)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 slices bacon, diced
- 1 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less if you would like this with less spice)
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 ounces Mascarpone or cream cheese
- 3/4 cup panko (Japanese Breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pound Penne
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, allow to melt, and then add the flour and stir for a minute. Gradually whisk in 3 cups of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 1/4 cups of cheddar and all of the Parmesan cheese and marscapone. Return bacon to sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add panko and stir until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lighly butter a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish or similarly sized gratin dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until very al dente. Drain well. Toss pasta and cheese sauce and season again with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until hot and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.