A quick and easy stovetop mac and cheese with bacon, rosemary, and white cheddar.
- 3/4 lb. cavatappi pasta
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped (1–2 Tbsp.)
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2.5 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- 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 – you want about 3 tablespoons.
- Add garlic and rosemary to pot. The bacon fat will be very hot, so keep an eye on the garlic to ensure it doesn’t burn (you can even reduce the heat or turn it off entirely for a minute if you need to). Cook until garlic has softened and is fragrant, about one minute.
- Add flour to pot and stir to combine. Don’t worry if the bacon fat looks a little foamy here.
- Add milk to pot a little at a time, whisking constantly to work out any lumps.
- Cook sauce for 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s thickened and reached a low simmer.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in shredded cheese. Stir constantly until cheese has melted, and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Top mac and cheese with crispy bacon pieces and serve immediately.
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Shred your own cheddar cheese if possible – store-bought shredded cheese often has preservatives that prevent the cheese from melting smoothly.
If you think there is too much or too little bacon fat left in the pot after cooking the bacon, you can spoon some of it out or add a little bit of butter until it looks right. I generally find that 4 strips of bacon release just the right amount of fat for forming the roux here, and it’s a very forgiving sauce if you have a little more or a little less.
If you omit the bacon, use 3 Tbsp. butter in place of the bacon fat to make the roux.
Use more or less fresh rosemary depending on the size of your sprigs and your personal preferences.
Use 1/2 – 1 tsp. dried rosemary in place of fresh if you like.
Substitute 1 cup of chicken stock for 1 cup of the milk to lighten this recipe up a little.
Add grilled chicken, salmon, or other proteins or veggies to make this a little heartier.
For plain bacon mac and cheese, you can omit the garlic and rosemary.
Mix up the cheeses here if you like – this recipe is also great when you swap out some of the white cheddar for gruyere, goat cheese, parmesan, cream cheese, fontina, or havarti.