Macaroni and cheese is my favorite food. I’m not talking about the kind in the box; I’m talking about the kind that’s got a variety of cheeses and gets baked in the oven.
So when the About staff decided to forgo the traditional “It’s January so you’re on a diet” recipe in favor of comfort food, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. And then when I found this “fancy macaroni and cheese” recipe by the Pioneer Woman (whom I also love), I knew I’d made an excellent choice.
Her recipe includes a few departures from the traditional cheese sauce plus pasta. She adds bacon grease and egg yolks to her roux, and she throws 10 slices of bacon and sauteed onions into the finished sauce for good measure. She also uses goat cheese as one of the four cheeses in the recipe, which I was particularly excited about.
The taste definitely is different from a traditional macaroni and cheese, but it’s a delicious grown-up version. The recipe suggests pairing the dish with red meat or a green salad, but I honestly would just dig in with a fork. This pasta is dense and rich and practically a meal in itself.
There’s a decent amount of grating, chopping and prepping before you actually can begin cooking the sauce and assembling the macaroni and cheese, so keep that in mind. The recipe suggests significantly undercooking the noodles—which I did—but by the time I was ready for them, they’d formed into a sticky lump that I had to work pretty hard to disassemble and stir into the thick, cheesy bacon-and-sauce mixture.
I used only one onion, instead of two, and I still felt like I had too much onion to work with. I kept the pieces in long strips like the photographs that accompanied the recipe showed, but I wouldn’t do that again because it made the dish too stringy. It’s definitely an onion-forward dish, but don’t let that deter you. I had a few coworkers who skeptically eyed the onions before digging in, anyway, and telling me it “actually was pretty good.”
4 cups macaroni
8 tablespoons salted butter
2 whole medium onions, cut in half and sliced thin
10 slices regular bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease (reserved from bacon slices)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 whole egg yolks, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4 ounces chevre (soft goat cheese)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook macaroni for half the time of the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
3. Fry bacon until slightly, but not overly, crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Reserve grease.
4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet and then saute onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and soft. Set aside.
5. In a pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter (and add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease for good measure!). Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in milk and half and half, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Do not undersalt!)
6. Beat egg yolks and drizzle 1/4 cup hot mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into sauce and cook for another minute.
7. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Add onions and bacon and stir. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed. Add cooked macaroni and stir to coat.
8. Pour into a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until sizzling and hot.