Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

Sunday, January 9, 2011

macaroni and cheese
One of my favorite comfort foods when I was growing up was homemade mac & cheese. As I got older it seemed like too childish a dish for a mature adult, but I didn’t want to give it up. Today, my mac & cheese has a more grown-up twist, with fancy cheeses, crispy pancetta and fresh peas. It’s just what the grown-up kid in me needs after a long hard day… the ultimate comfort food.

8 Tbsp Unsalted butter (1 stick)
6 Slices Good white bread, crusts removed, torn into ¼ to 1/2-inch pieces
5-1/2 Cups Milk
½ Cup All-purpose flour
2 Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Nutmeg
¼ Tsp Black Pepper
4-1/2 Cups Grated Sharp White Cheddar Cheese (about 18 ounces)
2 Cups Grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces) or 1-1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
6 slices Pancetta bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
½ Cup Peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 Pound Elbow Macaroni

1.) Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside. Place bread in a bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and pour over the bread, toss. Set aside.
2.) Cook pancetta until crispy. Drain, crumble and set aside.
3.) Warm milk in a saucepan. Melt remaining butter in a deep skillet. When butter bubbles add flour. Cook whisking constantly for 1 minute.
4.) While whisking add hot milk a little at a time to keep things smooth. Continue cooking and whisking until mixture bubbles and thickens, about 8 to 12 minutes.
5.) Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese and 1-1/2 cups Gruyere cheese (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set aside cheese sauce.
6.) Cook macaroni in a large pot of salted water until the outside is cooked but the inside is slightly underdone, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain macaroni in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce.
7.) Stir in pancetta and peas.
8.) Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and top with bread crumbs. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
9.) Cook on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe makes enough for 12 people. If you want to divide it in half be sure to use a smaller casserole dish.

When served with a fresh green salad it makes the perfect grown-up meal.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tavallai

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