I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll…. but Sunday around our house is highly protected. Just ask anybody who has ever knocked on our door on a Sunday afternoon and interrupted my nap. It ain’t pretty and I usually end up apologizing for my less than neighborly behavior. After church, David and I like to throw on our holy (ha) sweats, hibernate and as usual, eat. One particular gluttonous Sunday (yes I know gluttony is a sin, especially on a Sunday), we had munched our way through the freezer (Party Pizza anyone?) and pantry but couldn’t quite figure out what we were craving. Outta nowhere, mac and cheese came to mind. Not the orange stuff in a box, but good ole homemade mac and cheese. Nap inducing mac and cheese. So Sunday Mac was born….
Excuse the poor photography. But you see what I’m talking about. So this recipe is all about the flava. Layer after layer of gorgeous flavor. Don’t let the ingredients or process scare you off on this one….and for sure make it your own. So here. we. go.
Bacon. Err thing good starts with bacon. And butter. So dice up about hmmmm say 5-6 slices of good bacon (we love Wright’s Thick Cut) and get that going over medium heat in a really BIG skillet. Speaking of skillets, my go to is a big ol cast iron, affectionately called Elvira. You’ll be seeing a lot of her…. While your bacon is cooking, dice up some onion, shallot if you have it, about a 1/4 cup of each and grate up some cheese. Now… you must understand about cheese in our house…. it is special. SO special it has it’s own drawer in the fridge. I am not to be trusted near any cheese section in a store, especially Sam’s. Today I used a modge podge of different cheeses… smoked gouda, white american and sharp cheddar. But feel free to use whatever you like…. you just need about 2-3 cups of cheese or more if you’re like me.
Last but not least…… and very necessary…. VELVEETA! No need to grate it… I just pinch it in there. We’re only going to use maybe 1/4 of the block…. and I am LOVING the mini blocks…. but of course they are hard to find.
So here is all of our crispy bacon all fried up… Trust me. Hide it. Or you won’t have any left.
So drain off… ehhhh most of the bacon grease , I leave 1-2 tablespoons and then add in the butter.
Then in with the onions and shallots if you have them along with seasoning. It is SO important to season every layer. Kosher salt, white pepper and tiny bit of cayenne. Now at this point I usually also start my crunchy panko topping… but ya gotta keep a close eye on it so if multitasking ain’t your thing… just wait till the sauce is finished.
Get your pasta water going at this point…. and SALT it generously…. at least a couple of Tablespoons or more depending on your pot. Perfect pasta water should taste like the sea… You know when you get knocked down by a wave at the beach and think you inhaled the gulf? Just like that..but without the burning sinus cavity. I like cavatappi or corkscrew pasta for this mac… but shells, elbows, whatever you like will work. I cook mine a touch past al dente (firm to the bite) because the hubs likes it that way.
So cook those onions and shallots down, throw in some minced garlic and cook for a minute or so longer. Then add 2-3 Tablespoons of flour until you have a smooth bubbly paste… a roux of sorts if you will. Cook that flour for 2-3 minutes – stirring constantly…. Kinda looks like gravy don’t it? It kinda is. Cheese gravy… lol. Add in your stock and whisk like a madman until it comes together, then add milk and/or cream until you get a smooth sauce… Not too thick tho because the cheese will thicken it up tremendously. Important… taste it to make sure your seasoning is on point… Easy on the salt tho.
Now add in your cheese, lower the heat and stir still smooth…. Also keep your liquid handy… either stock, milk or cream in case it gets too thick…. add and whisk until you want to swim in it. Give it another taste too…. and season as needed.
So as you can see it still needs more cheese. So pinch in some Velveeta (this is really to taste) and stir until mixed in… Again you may need to add more liquid to maintain the right consistency. Once its all in… taste AGAIN.
By now your pasta should be getting close… cook it to your preference, some people like firm pasta, some mushy, some in between…. I’m an inbetween girl for this…. Between al dente (firm) and mushy. Once done, drain and set aside. Cover your sauce and keep it warm while we get the crunch going.
The crunchy bits are simply panko bread crumbs toasted off with butter and garlic salt until they are nice and brown and toasty. Melt your butter, add in your panko, season with garlic salt and keep tossing and stirring over medium / low heat until they are brown. Keep an eye on those boogers… they will go from good to burnt quickly.
Now add your pasta to your sauce or your sauce to your pasta…. whichever you prefer and gently mix together until combined. Now you have one of two options…. plate and dig in or bake it. I’m not a fan of the baked mac and cheese… I prefer it nice and creamy and luscious. But its your mac so it’s up to you. If you prefer baked (eww), butter up a baking dish, pour it in, top with more cheese, add your cooked bacon and panko and bake until set. Ehh.. maybe 20-25 minutes. If not, serve it up, top with crunchy goodness and dig in. Recipe and Tips posted below! No calorie count tho… cause who needs that judgement?
- 5-6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- ¼ cup onion, diced fine
- 1 shallot, diced fine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic…. (use the jar)
- 2-3 tablespoons flour
- Chicken stock
- 1-2 cups milk and/or heavy cream
- 2-3 cups grated cheese (your choice)
- 8 -12 oz. Velveeta
- 1 lb. dried pasta (cavatappi, cellentani, shells)
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- kosher salt
- ground white pepper (black works too)
- garlic salt
- cayenne pepper (optional)
Cook bacon until crisp, remove to drain on paper towels. Set aside… Preferably somewhere you can’t reach.
Get your pasta water going… (remember salt it like the sea) Once your pasta water is boiling, cook pasta until done to your preference… drain and set aside. Don’t worry if sticks together, the sauce will make it all happy again once added.
Drain all but a 1-2 tablespoons of grease, toss in a tablespoon or so of butter, and get the onions and shallots in the pool. Season them up…. Salt, pepper, and a smidge of cayenne. Sauté for a few, add in the minced garlic and stir for another minute or so. Add in your flour, a bit at a time until you have a nice paste, cooking and stirring for a few minutes…. Now in with your stock, prolly a cup or so to start and stir, baby stir. (A whisk makes all the difference)… follow up with your cream and/or milk until your sauce is smooth, and thick enough to coat a spoon…. Note: once your sauce begins to bubble consistently… it is as thick as it will get. TASTE your sauce and season if needed… Now in with the cheese… lower that heat and stir till combined. Add more stock/milk/cream if it gets too thick. Last but not least… VELVEETA….pinch it in and stir….Once that sauce looks and tastes like something you wanna bathe in… remove it from the heat and combine with the pasta.
Now for the panko…. Over low-medium heat, melt 1-2 tablespoons butter, add in your panko, season well with garlic salt and stir until browned and crunchy.
You are now ready to serve up this cheesy goodness…. Dish it up, and top with bacon and panko…. Chopped green onions on top are good too….
Alrighty… for you weirdos that bake your mac and cheese (insert gag emoji here)… transfer it to a 9×13 buttered dish, top with more cheese, bacon and panko and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes….
- Make this your own…. Use your favorite cheeses… Smoked gouda is my jam, but this is a GREAT way to use up leftover chunks and ends of bags of grated cheese that would otherwise go to waste.
- TASTE and SEASON yo food. Please.
- To warm this up so it doesn’t turn into a gelatinous glob…. Drop your power setting to 50% in the micro, splash a little milk in there and stir throughout the warming process….
- Should your sauce be too salty…..add in more cream to balance the taste.