This easy bacon mac and cheese recipe has a creamy white cheddar cheese sauce and gets a delicious twist from garlic and fresh rosemary! A simple stovetop mac and cheese (no bake!) that's ready in under an hour.
This pasta is comfort food at its finest. It's easily one of my favorite mac and cheese recipes.
And fair warning: Once you try this creamy rosemary cheese sauce, you're never going back. It's cozy, elegant, and pairs so perfectly with a handful of crispy, smokey bacon.
Looking for something a little different? Try our jalapeño popper bacon mac and cheese →
Our basic order of operations
There are three main steps to this recipe:
- Cook the pasta.
- Fry the bacon.
- Make the sauce.
First, cook the pasta
First things first: Cook your pasta noodles in very salty water until they're al dente. You can handle this in one of two ways:
- Cook the pasta in a separate pot of boiling water while you fry the bacon and make the cheese sauce. When the pasta is done, use a spider strainer or slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared cheese sauce. To help with timing, we like to fry the bacon while we wait for the water to boil, then build the sauce while the pasta cooks.
- Cook and drain the pasta, then return the same pot to the stove to build the cheese sauce. This is what we do in the full written recipe below, but use whichever method you like!
Fry the bacon
Heat a large sauce pot over medium-high heat, then add your chopped bacon and fry until it's nice and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to move the cooked bacon to a separate plate, but leave the bacon fat in the pot (we'll use this to make our roux - just like you would use butter in our spicy mac and cheese recipe!)
Make the sauce
Add chopped garlic and fresh rosemary to the bacon fat and cook until it's fragrant, then whisk in a bit of flour to form your roux (a thick paste that will help the sauce thicken).
Whisk milk into the roux, then let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to thicken it up. Once the sauce is thick, stir in plenty of shredded white cheddar cheese, mix in the cooked pasta, and add salt and pepper as needed. Top with the crispy bacon you cooked earlier, and enjoy!
Two rules for excellent mac and cheese
- Shred your own cheese if you can. Pre-shredded cheese is often coated with preservatives that prevent it from melting smoothly.
- Add salt at every stage. Seasoning is SO important (with anything, but especially with mac and cheese). Be sure to salt your pasta water, and add a pinch of salt to the sauce right after you add the milk. Once the macaroni noodles are all mixed in, give it a taste and add more salt if the flavors still need to "pop" (just keep in mind that the bacon is also pretty salty, so you may need less salt here than you usually would!)
A quick mac and cheese primer
There are two main styles of macaroni and cheese: The French-leaning version builds a creamy sauce using a basic stovetop béchamel sauce (a flour-and-butter base - called a roux - with lots of milk). Southern mac and cheese is typically baked and sometimes features eggs or evaporated milk in addition to a blend of cheeses and seasonings.
The "right" way to make mac and cheese is different for everyone. Our mac and cheese recipes have plenty of riffs and mix-ins, and they lean towards the French style: excellent right off the stovetop or baked with breadcrumbs or extra cheese on top.
Riffs and Substitutions
Mix this rosemary mac and cheese recipe up with whatever you have on hand! Some of our favorite swaps:
- Add extra protein. Toss some chopped rotisserie chicken (or leftover shredded chicken), chorizo sausage, or diced ham into the cheese sauce along with the pasta.
- Use any pasta you like! We love twirly cavatappi noodles here, but this recipe also works with rigatoni, shell pasta, or classic elbow macaroni.
- Amp up the flavor by adding some diced jalapeño and cream cheese (use our jalapeño popper mac and cheese recipe as a guide here!) to this sauce.
- Add extra veggies. Broccoli, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, spinach, and kale are all good stirred into this sauce.
- Use dried spices here if you need to. Swap a teaspoon of garlic powder for the minced garlic in this recipe, or use 1 Tablespoon of dried rosemary in place of the fresh. You can also add a pinch of ground mustard to this cheese sauce for a bit of extra depth!
- Switch up the cheeses. Use a combination of cheese for extra depth and flavor. Swap some or all of the sharp cheddar cheese in this recipe for gruyere, parmesan cheese, smoked gouda, or goat cheese.
A few FAQs
Yes! If you'd like to bake this pasta in the oven, cook the noodles until they're 2-3 minutes less than al dente, make the sauce as directed, then transfer mac and cheese to a baking dish or casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs (we love using toasted panko bread crumbs!) or extra cheese and bake. For more specific notes on how to bake mac and cheese, see our Mac and Cheese 101 guide.
Yes! Because we're using a béchamel-style cheese sauce (made with a roux), this bacon mac and cheese keeps well without separating. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop in a saucepan or large skillet over medium-low heat, and add a splash of milk or cream to help the sauce stay creamy as it warms. You can also freeze this mac and cheese: Store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months without losing flavor. To thaw, let it defrost in the fridge overnight.
Bacon Mac and Cheese with Rosemary
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian-American
A quick and easy stovetop mac and cheese with bacon, rosemary, and white cheddar.
- ¾ pound pasta (we used cavatappi noodles)
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped (about 3 Tablespoons)
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 2 ½ cups shredded white cheddar cheese
Cook the pasta:
- Cook pasta in a large pot filled with very salty water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Cook the bacon:
- Return pot to stove over medium heat. Add diced bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crispy.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Leave the bacon fat in the pot: This will be the fat that we use to build our roux! You want about 3 Tablespoons of bacon fat left in the pot; if you have quite a bit more than this, feel free to spoon a bit out.
Build the sauce:
- Add garlic and rosemary to the pot with your bacon fat. The bacon fat will be quite hot: keep an eye on the garlic and stir frequently to ensure it doesn't burn (you can reduce the heat or turn it off entirely for a minute if you need to). Cook until garlic has softened and rosemary is fragrant, about one minute.
- Add flour to pot and stir to form a paste. (This is our roux, which will help the sauce thicken. Don't worry if the bacon fat foams up a bit or looks different than a traditional flour-and-butter roux here!)
- Whisk milk into roux a little at a time, whisking constantly to work out any flour lumps. Whisk in a pinch of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper.
- Bring sauce to a low simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 6-10 minutes until it thickens.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in shredded cheese. Stir until cheese has melted.
- Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Top with crispy bacon and serve immediately.
Shred your own cheese if you can: Store bought shredded cheeses are often coated with preservatives that prevent them from melting smoothly.
Additions and Substitutions. Add more garlic or rosemary if you like. Use 1 teaspoon dried garlic in place of the fresh garlic. Use 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary in place of fresh rosemary. If you omit the bacon, use 3 Tablespoons butter in place of the bacon fat to make the roux. Add chicken, sausage, or ham for extra protein. Stir in broccoli, spinach, kale, butter beans, roasted butternut squash, or cauliflower to make this a bit heartier. Substitute up to 1 cup of the milk for chicken stock, beer, or white wine. Replace some or all of the white cheddar cheese with fontina, parmesan, havarti, cream cheese, gruyere, or goat cheese. Use our favorite Magic Cauliflower Cream in place of the flour and milk if you like.
To make this a baked mac and cheese, cook the pasta until it's a few minutes less than al dente, then prepare as directed and transfer to a casserole dish. Top with toasted bread crumbs, extra cheese, and the crispy bacon and bake at 400° F for 15-30 minutes until the top is crispy. For a full guide to baking mac and cheese, check out Mac and Cheese 101.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 524
- Sugar: 6.1 g
- Sodium: 862.5 mg
- Fat: 24.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 51.9 g
- Protein: 23.8 g
- Cholesterol: 60.6 mg
Keywords: pasta, comfort food, side dish
BACON MAC AND CHEESE very delicious ,personally I like that .
Salmon kebabs recipe looks is delicious .personally I love this recipe. Thanks for sharing valuable information about BACON MAC AND CHEESE
Jackie @ Life As A Strawberry
Thank you so much!
No photo to send, we ate it all!
Defs best Mac & cheese I have tasted!
Jackie @ Life As A Strawberry
Hi Emma, thank you!
Easy, delicious and quick!
I can't wait to try this. My mouth started salivating by seeing this only. Mac and cheese is my favorite and anytime you give Mac and cheese pasta I will be ready to eat without any limit. And this is kind of different flavor I guess. Because I saw some extra ingredients in the recipe. So I'm definitely going to try this soon and will definitely let you know, how it turned out.
Geez, this looks amazing!! Bacon is the perfect addition to any mac and cheese, but this recipe: O.M.G!!
Thanks, Sean! It's definitely one of our new favorites!