This recipe I am posting for my friend Miki, who doesn’t like Mac ‘n Cheese. But she seems to be convinced she would like this one, and I am sure, no, TRIPLE sure that she would. If she would just make it. She says that she rather me come over and make it for her, and I would, except she lives in Italy… and I alas, am in Spain.
I love macaroni and cheese. My love affair began as a wee tot, when my parents prohibited everything that was processed, in a box, not home-made, yada yada yada……. Then when we moved to the Bahamas, I tried my first box of Thrifty Made Macaroni and Cheese, courtesy of Lisa Donaldson, after a loooong night out at Waterloo, the local, em….watering hole. We had a disgusting habit of polishing off a box after our nights out “dancing” with a can of Blue Bird Pineapple Juice.
Now cut to years later. Centuries later, it seems. I make the homemade versions now, since I am a much more sophisticated person. (Yes you can laugh, and yes I still do enjoy a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Some habits are hard to break.) The first homemade version I made was from Martha Stewart’s “Comfort Food” cook book, which called for a bechamel sauce, 3 different cheeses and a buttered, crustless white bread topping. Since then, I have been experimenting, a la my American chefs have, with all sorts of added ingredients to make it even more delicious! So, two more things I can’t live without…..
1) Bacon. I could eat bacon everyday.
2) Leeks. I have recently become obsessed by that indecent large variant of the onion.
So, here I give you my Leek and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese recipe: Simply irresistable. Yes, I am reminiscing about the 80’s. Ha ha…and now you’ve got that song in your head too.
Leek and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb pasta, rigatoni, penne, shells, fusilli…..anything that catches the cheese in its lovely curves.
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only, with a handful reserved for topping
4-5 slices of bacon, chopped
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
4 tbsp butter
8 – 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). In a large stockpot, bring water with a tbsp of salt to a boil. When boiling, add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over med heat, add the olive oil and bacon. When the bacon starts to cook, add the leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour, and mix well, and cook it for about 2 – 3 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the milk and cream, and stir until thickened.
When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and add the cheeses.
Mix well, until all the cheese has melted and you have a smooth, unctuous sauce…..and yes, you may dip your finger in it and sample a bite. Or two.
Now, add your drained pasta, and mix well, until all those wonderful pasta curves are filled with cheese. Place in a baking dish, set aside. Try not to eat it now, it’s not ready yet!
You still have to make the topping. The topping makes the dish.
In a small frying pan, over medium heat, add the butter. When it is melted, add the reserved leeks, and turn the heat up to high. When the leeks are getting nice and golden, add your bread crumbs and thoroughly mix, until they are all coated with the butter.
Now scatter the bread crumbs and leeks over the pasta, and top with the halved cherry tomatoes. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Wait 15 minutes before serving. Yes, I know it’s torture….but if you don’t it will be even more torture when you’ve burnt your tongue and can’t fully taste it…..it’s mouth watering!
From my kitchen to yours,