Baked Macaroni and Cheese

One strange thing since I’ve been in Spain is that I will have moments where I realize that I’m just plain starving. Maybe my body is adjusting to a different diet, but all I know is that I randomly get hit with a thought of – man, I’m really freaking hungry. Davis arrived a bit after I did and sure enough, he goes through the same thing, a random and sudden realization that you are just ravenous.

It’s not for lack of eating; my pet philosophy is it has to do with the times that we’re eating and the types of foods just aren’t what we’ve come to know as being “filling.” I wonder if everyone has a similar adjustment when moving to a foreign country?

That said, I have been craving, and I mean, craving macaroni and cheese lately. It’s normally a fall/winter food, but for some reason I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It’s super dense and almost everyone’s version of comfort food. I can say definitively that it hit the spot.

Everyone has his or her own version of macaroni and cheese – the recipe below can easily be made vegetarian with the omission of bacon, or you can also use low fat milk, if you want. This isn’t exactly heart or waistline friendly, but it’s a treat dish that only gets broken out every few months, so I try to not associate any guilt with it afterwards.

What you’ll need:

  • Macaroni, dried – 3/4 pound
  • Milk – 1 1/2 cup
  • Heavy Cream – 3/4 cup
  • Butter – 1/2 stick, 1 tbsp for greasing the pan
  • Paprika – 1 tbsp for flour mixture, 1 tsp for bread crumb mixture
  • Flour – 3 tbsp
  • Breadcrumbs, finely ground – 3/4 cup
  • Gruyere – 1 cup
  • Mozzarella – 1 cup
  • Onion, diced – 1/4 cup
  • Garlic, minced – 2 cloves
  • Bacon, cooked and crumbled – 5 slices
  • Red pepper, canned and diced – 1 pepper
  • Salt – to taste
  • Pepper – to taste

Before starting with the pasta, it’s a lot easier to prep all of your add-ons.

  1. Cook your bacon and remove it from the pan when done. Keep the grease in the pan.
  2. Over medium-high heat, add the onion, garlic to the bacon pan. Cook till translucent, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add red pepper to the onion and cook for another 1-2 mintues. While the onion is cooking, crumble the bacon.
  4. Once it’s all done, put all of the ingredient into a bowl and set aside.
  5. Grease your large baking dish.
  6. Mix your breadcrumbs in a bowl with paprika, salt and pepper until it is well incorporated.

Now on to making the pasta

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until almost done. Not fully tender but without any hardness. Drain it, rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl.
  3. Add the milk and cream to a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, and remove from heat.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter; and let cook for roughly 5 minutes. Add the flour and paprika and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about another 5 minutes.
  5. Slowly add the milk mixture to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth. Add the bacon, onions, garlic, red pepper to the sauce. Stir in the cheese into the milk/flour mixture and stir until mixed well.
  6. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix so that noodles are well coated with the cheese sauce. Add to your greased baking dish.
  7. Top the cheese and noodles with your breadcrumb mixture, and bake until the crumbs turn brown, about 20 minutes.

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