stovetop mac and cheese with bacon
Pasta Small Bites + Sides

Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Give your stovetop macaroni and cheese a surprisingly easy gourmet twist with pasta shells, homemade bechamel sauce, several types of cheese you probably have tucked away in your fridge, and some diced bacon! It will taste luxurious but take you less than 20 minutes to make.

stovetop mac and cheese with bacon

Good morning, all, and happy Monday! Hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend – as nice as it could be in this crazy time we’re living through.

Ours was low key. I insisted on a few little things here and there – we had plastic eggs so I filled them with little homemade goodies for us to have an Easter egg hunt with, and we made a nice Easter brunch of scrambled eggs, asparagus and goat cheese tarts, and strawberry shortcake – and mimosas, because come on.

We didn’t dye eggs this year – Marcus is still too little to not smash everything and eggs are such a commodity right now we didn’t feel right doing it, even if I could make deviled eggs with them afterward. And we definitely didn’t dress. We just spent the day, as we have so many days, together at home. We had FaceTime and Zoom chats with our folks and my mom and I had a little watch party for Andrea Bocelli’s live broadcast of his concert at Il Duomo in Milan. And we did our best to make the best of a day that usually was one of celebration and hosting and is now, suddenly, one of isolation.

And I made this beautiful stovetop macaroni and cheese.

stovetop mac and cheese with bacon

It was chilly this weekend, so it called for some comfort food. And nothing is more comforting – or more Virginia – than homemade macaroni and cheese. Thomas Jefferson is usually credited with bringing mac and cheese to the states, along with other noodle recipes and a pasta machine. As President, in 1802, he served it up at a state dinner.

Despite its luxurious beginnings, mac and cheese rose to popularity in the Great Depression. You could serve a family of four a full dinner of mac and cheese for about 19 cents, thanks to Kraft. Both of these things made this a really appropriate dish for right now, and with it being a family favorite, I definitely wanted to share it here.

I picked up this particular version at the Virginia Culinary Institute. To get my credit for serving in a joint assignment, I had to take 10 weeks of classes at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk – but I had already served in a joint assignment for three years, and the class was one you were supposed to take beforehand. Long story short, I ended up not taking it until after the assignment, so as you can imagine, I was bored. I wrote papers. I learned how to sail. And I enrolled in the Virginia Culinary Institute to learn more tricks of the trade.

I got a massive refresher {translation: I got schooled} on my knife skills. I learned how to spatchcock a chicken properly. I made as many if not more stocks than I ever made while working at restaurants. And we worked again and again on the mother sauces and made roux until we had burnt a ridiculous amount of butter and flour – but could make a roux without burning the butter and flour. That’s where the magic begins.

stovetop mac and cheese with bacon

One day, we were working on making bechamel sauce, and the instructor had us grate a ton of cheese and just grab whatever cheese was left in the fridge to throw in there, mix some spices, boil some noodles, and throw in some shredded chicken. The result was the most delicious macaroni and cheese ever.

My version here takes that same base, only skips quickly through the roux so you don’t have to worry about burning it, makes use of a combination of cheeses that really bring the flavor but also do a great job of not letting your roux break, mixes in a little bacon just for fun, and finishes with a little panko and a minute under the broiler to crisp everything.

My family absolutely loves this recipe, and it’s an easy one to double if you need to feed a lot of really hungry people. By itself, it will easily feed your family and probably give you lunch for the next day.

Dig in and enjoy!

[lt_recipe name=”Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Bacon” summary=”Give your stovetop macaroni and cheese a surprisingly gourmet twist with pasta shells, homemade bechamel sauce, several types of cheese, and diced bacon!” servings=”4″ total_time=”20M” print=”yes” image=”×683.jpg” ingredients=”1 box medium pasta shells;5 tbsp butter;2 heaping tbsp all purpose flour;2 cups whole milk;1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce;1/2 tsp salt;1 tsp ground mustard;1/2 tsp garlic powder;1/2 tsp white pepper;7 oz Irish cheddar cheese, grated;4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated;5 oz deli cheese, torn;2 slices cooked bacon, chopped;4 tbsp panko crumbs;diced parsley for garnish” ]Set a large pot of water to boil, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Throw in the box of pasta shells and cook until al dente, 8-9 minutes (or according to box instructions).;Set a large stockpot over low heat. Add the 5 tbsp butter and melt. Add the flour and stir until combined with the butter, and let cook about 1 minute, or until the mixture has a popcorn kind of smell (key with roux).;Whisk in the milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, ground mustard, garlic powder, and white pepper. Let cook until the sauce thickens, 3-5 minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon so that when you drag your finger through it, you see the line.;Stir in the cheese about a cupful at a time, stirring until it melts. Keep the heat low and remove the pot from the heat if it starts to bubble. Scrape the bottom of the pan so that the cheese doesn’t burn.;Add the pasta shells and the chopped bacon, stirring until the pasta shells are nicely coated with sauce. Let cook 5-7 minutes.;Fire up your broiler and set it on low. Set four oven-safe bowls on a rimmed baking sheet {French onion soup bowls work great for this}. Fill the bowls with mac and cheese and top with panko crumbs.;Set in the broiler for just a minute, just enough to crisp the panko crumbs for that nice little bit of extra crunch on top.;Serve, garnished with a little extra Parmesan and diced parsley.[/lt_recipe]

Seriously, with only about 20 minutes of work, you’ve got a really delicious and luxurious tasting meal that will fill you right up, heat up very well for lunch the next day, use up any extra random cheese in your fridge, and let you really stretch that pasta in your pantry.

stovetop mac and cheese with bacon

Where are my macaroni and cheese fans? What’s your favorite noodle to make this with?

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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