The ultimate mac and cheese

Ultimate mac and cheese

Mac and cheese is probably one of the very first dishes that I learned to cook well. It’s such an easy dish but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been served up a plate of mushiness that tastes very little of the starring ingredient – cheese. Doing it right requires a good cheese sauce base which can’t be rushed and is worth every second of effort. You can go old school with the classic mac and cheese or pimp it up even further by adding some tasty extras such as tomato, bacon, onion or mushrooms.

This recipe really is a good un’ and will see you right when you need a good bit of comfort food. The pasta still has a bit of satisfying texture and bite, the cheese sauce will blow your socks off and the smattering of bacony bits will leave you swooning. So, go on, loosen up your belt buckle a notch or two, put your feet up and get stuck in.

Ingredients

500g dried pasta shapes (I prefer shells to the classic macaroni as it holds the sauce better)
100g butter
100g plain flour
750ml milk
300g strong cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp smoked paprika
200g smoked streaky bacon, diced

Method

Boil and salt a large pot of water, add the dried pasta and cook for roughly 10-12 minutes until the pasta is al dente (still has a bite to it). Mean while, chop the bacon into small pieces and dry fry in a large frying pan until crispy. Remove the bacon from the heat and set aside. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a large sauce pan and whisk in the flour, stirring continuously for 3-4 minutes until the flour is cooked out. Gradually add in the milk, bit by bit, whisking all the while until you have a lovely thick white sauce. Now add in the mustard, half of the paprika and two-thirds of the cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted into the sauce.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot, pour in the cheese sauce and bacon bits (pour in any bacon fat as well as this will add to the overall flavour. Transfer the mac and cheese to a heat proof baking dish, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and smoked paprika, then bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 180˚C.

Tip – for an extra bit of luxury and tastiness, serve with a dollop of my tomato, chilli and red onion chutney on top. This was beyond words amazing 😀

Serves 4-6

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