I recently went out to dinner with some friends, one of whom ordered the house made mac and cheese. Seeing it reminded me why such a simple dish was a childhood favourite of mine. I decided to make my version a bit more adult (and decadent) with the addition of gourmet cheeses and pancetta. This recipe was inspired by ingredients I had in my fridge on a gloomy, snowy day. I already had Gruyere, Pecorino and Parmesan but I felt that the robustness of an aged cheddar was also needed. I had originally planned on making a different meal and had defrosted some pancetta accordingly. I couldn’t let it go bad so I decided to add it to the dish, after all what goes better with gooey cheese than bacon? If you’d like, you can remove the pancetta or switch up any of the cheeses I used (Gruyere is admittedly very expensive) but please don’t use mild cheddar or only one cheese, the different flavours are what make this dish so delicious.
2 cups Gruyere, grated
1 cup Aged Cheddar, grated (I used 2 year old white cheddar)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 cup pancetta, diced
Pinch of chilli powder
2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
Box of macaroni (I like Barilla)
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (these maintain their crunch better than regular breadcrumbs)
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
Dash of chilli powder
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Baking pan/Corning ware
Grate your Gruyere, Cheddar and Pecorino and set aside. Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil. Fry your pancetta with a dash of chilli powder until nice and crispy and set aside. Next, dice your garlic cloves and mix with your pancetta.
Cook your macaroni pasta for 2 minutes less than the box instructions (you want it slightly undercooked). Once your pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
In your pasta pot, melt your butter then add your flour to form a roux: your roux will become a nutty colour when it’s finished. Next, slowly add your milk while whisking. Once your sauce has thickened, add your grated cheeses and mix until melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off the heat and add your pasta and pancetta. Mix until your pasta is fully coated and taste to ensure you have enough salt and pepper.
Next, pour the macaroni mixture into your greased baking pan. Sprinkle your panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan evenly over your pasta. Finally, sprinkle your chilli flakes and powder over the entire thing.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375 F, until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.