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Black baking dish filled with shell pasta in a white sauce.

Hard Apple Cider Mac and Cheese (with Bacon!)

  • Author: Jessie
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This easy mac and cheese recipe gets a boost of fall flavor from hard cider and crispy bacon!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound pasta (we used large shells)
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2/3 cup hard apple cider
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (we love this aged cheddar from Kerrygold!)

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat (we use the same pot we just cooked the pasta in!) Add the diced bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until crispy.
  3. Remove crispy bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pot - you want about 3 Tablespoons!
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour and whisk together with bacon fat to form a roux. Cook for about a minute until the roux is sizzling.
  5. Add hard apple cider to pot a little at a time, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add milk and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking frequently, until sauce has thickened and reached a low simmer, about 8 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove pot from heat and stir in shredded cheese. Mix until cheese is melted and you have a smooth sauce.
  8. Stir half of the crispy bacon pieces into the sauce (save the rest for topping later!)
  9. Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Top with remaining crispy bacon and serve immediately.

Notes

What apple cider should I use? We recommend a hard cider on the drier side for best results. The cider you use will definitely affect how your sauce tastes, so use a cider you like to drink! If you use a sweet cider, you'll end up with a sweeter sauce. Be sure to read the post above for a full list of our favorite cider brands for this recipe. If you prefer not to use alcohol, use a dry apple juice or nonalcoholic dry apple cider.

Additions and Substitutions. Use brie or smoked gouda cheese in place of or in addition to the white cheddar here. Add some veggies for color (broccoli, spinach, and kale are our favorites), a few teaspoons of diced jalapeño for some spice, or some grilled chicken or sausage for extra protein.

For a lighter sauce, use our Magic Cauliflower Cream Sauce in place of the flour and milk!

For a baked mac and cheese, follow the "how to bake" directions in our Mac and Cheese 101 post.

Keywords: pasta, macaroni, autumn