Happy Mac and Cheese Week Friday, everyone! (Today should have a cool TGIF acronym…TGIMACWF? …I’ll work on it).
Today is the last (but most DEFINITELY not the least) of a weeklong tribute to the greatest comfort food in the world – macaroni and cheese. And it’s probably been my favorite week of all time. I’m thinking there should be themed weeks of posts more often…hmmm….so stay tuned.
This recipe is one of my most-requested among the special few I’ve cooked it for, and although I try not to practice mac and cheese favoritism (all mac and cheese is excellent), this is (*gasp*) PROBABLY one of my top two favorite mac and cheese recipes. You wouldn’t think adding apple cider to pasta would blow your mind with deliciousness – but OH. IT DOES. Plus, it’s one more thing I get to put booze in. And you know how that makes me happy.
So, friends, from me to you – HAPPY MAC AND CHEESE WEEK. I hope you’ve enjoyed these five days of mac-and-chees-y-ness. I know I have. Now go make this for dinner! You SO won’t regret it.
Hard Apple Cider Mac and Cheese
1 lb. pasta (I used large shell pasta)
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2/3 cup hard apple cider (I like this one from Angry Orchard. A LOT)
1 and 1/3 cup milk (I use skim)
2 and 2/3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 lb. bacon
1. First, cook the bacon. I usually cook mine in the oven or on the stovetop.
2. Chop the cooked bacon into small, “bacon bite” like pieces. Set aside.
2. Cook pasta in very salty water until 4-6 minutes less than al dente (you’re going to bake it later, so by undercooking it now you’re making sure it isn’t soft or mushy when it comes out of the oven!)
3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk flour into the butter to form a roux and cook for 1 minute.
4. Whisk hard apple cider into the roux a little at a time until you’ve worked out all the lumps. Then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
5. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in cheddar cheese and mix until cheese has melted. Stir in pepper.
6. Stir all but one handful of the bacon pieces into the sauce. Set the extra handful of bacon aside for topping the pasta before you bake it.
7. Stir pasta into sauce until all noodles are evenly coated. Pour pasta into a baking dish (you can use one large one, although I chose to use four smaller ones – up to you!) and top with the bacon you set aside.
8. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until edges are crispy.
*Note – if you want to add additional toppings before baking, I suggest additional shredded cheddar cheese or breadcrumbs. Alternatively, this mac and cheese is just as amazing straight out of the pot, without baking it.
MAC AND CHEESE WEEK LINEUP!!!
Tuesday – White Cheddar Avocado Mac and Cheese
Wednesday – Beer Mac and Cheese
Thursday – White Cheddar Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese