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Macaroni with Farmhouse Cheddar and Bacon

Here’s a seriously grown-up version of a kid’s classic. Thanks to their different ages, the two cheddars give this hearty baked pasta a richness that’s balanced by the addition of salty, smoky bacon. A scattering of toasted coarse bread crumbs provides a crunchy, crusty top layer.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 4 slices baguette or other firm bread, crusts removed, bread torn into crumbs
  • 4 thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups milk, warmed
  • 1/2 lb. farmstead cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 lb. white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1/2 lb. elbow macaroni

Directions:

In a small fry pan over medium-high, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Add the bread crumbs and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In another fry pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until cooked but not crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter. When the butter foams, whisk in the flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne until a paste forms. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add three-fourths of the farmstead cheddar and half of the white cheddar and stir until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to the package instructions. Drain the macaroni, transfer to the prepared baking dish and stir in the bacon. Pour in the cheese sauce and stir to mix well. Top with all of the remaining cheese and then the bread crumbs. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cheese, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2010).