Happy autumn everyone! It’s official…I can pretend no longer. I actually love autumn but winter here terrifies me so any change in the temperature towards the single digits is scary.
I am determined to embrace this season and all the wonders it brings though! Watch out in the near future for homemade soups, baking extravaganzas, news of me curled up with a cuppa tea and a book/good film on the sofa, apple pies, root vegetable parties, and all-round comfort food.
Which takes us seamlessly onto the topic of today’s post and recipe: posh mac and cheese. Since I did not grow up in this country, a lot of what I consider “classic” or traditional American food comes from my husband, who happened to grow up eating mac and cheese by the truckload. It reminds him of his pa (as does oatmeal) since that’s what was for dinner on more than a rare occurrence. True story: I have never made mac and cheese from scratch. Exciting!
The only thing that makes this remotely ‘posh’ is the kind of cheese I used (really delicious sharp and aged Vermont cheddar) and maybe the panko. Apart from that, it is really just good homemade mac ‘n’ cheese.
Mac and cheese is not something we “do” in England but we do make a plethora of other Italian-inspired, comforting pasta bakes and the like and they always remind me of autumn when I start to crave piping hot cheesy carbs over fresh crunchy salads. Mmmm.
Be warned: this is by no means a healthy recipe! It is delicious beyond belief, buttery, cheesy, comforting, creamy, and rich but is meant to be enjoyed as part of a larger healthy diet. You will see that there is a phenomenal amount of cheese involved as well as generous helpings of butter, but it really is the only mac and cheese recipe you will ever want to use.
- 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 (I used skim)
- 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 – actually easy to find in our local coop so just ask someone to help you find it. It wasn’t expensive either. )
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pound Penne (I used whole wheat…every little helps!)
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 13×9×2 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.
What is your ultimate autumnal comfort food?
Mine is lasagna or spaghetti bolognaise – any tomato-y and cheesy pasta!