Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bacon Mac and Cheese

I love mac and cheese. Like seriously love it. All kinds - the blue box, Velveeta shells and cheese, it's all wonderful. But nothing beats homemade - the real, baked-in-the-oven kind. So when I found this recipe on Annie's Eats, I had to try it. (And p.s., if you've never checked out Annie's blog, make it a priority. It's fantastic!)

16 oz. pasta
9 slices bacon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups milk
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded
4 oz. white cheddar cheese, grated or chopped
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Once water reaches a rolling boil, cook the pasta according to package directions until just shy of al dente. Drain well and set aside. At the same time, thaw spinach according to package directions (I used the microwave method), drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease.  

To make the cheese sauce, add the reserved bacon grease to a medium saucepan with the butter. (If there was not enough bacon grease to make 2 Tablespoons, replace the missing amount by adding an equal amount of butter.) Heat over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted. Whisk in the flour and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant (do not burn!), around 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Stir in spices. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the cheeses until completely melted and smooth.  

Combine pasta, cheese sauce, bacon and spinach and pour mixture into casserole dish. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese it bubbly and top is golden brown.

Adapted from Annie's Eats.

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