Bacon Mac & Cheese

Hands down, Mac N Cheese is cheesy, yummy comfort food. Zest it up with some bacon and mmmm, mmmm, great!

Bacon/Bechamel Sauce:
5 Strips maple peppered bacon
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Cheese Sauce:
4 ounces grated sharp white Cheddar cheese
1 ounce grated Gruyere cheese
3 drops Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 cup elbow macaroni, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 tablespoons panko bread crumb
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter 2 gratin dishes.

Tray maple bacon, bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool drain grease and dice fine.

Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add chopped bacon, Whisk in flour; cook and stir until a paste forms and flour taste cooks off, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cold milk to flour mixture; whisk until completely incorporated. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low, and stir in paprika, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Stir Cheddar cheese and Gruyere cheese into bacon/béchamel sauce until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and stir Worcestershire sauce into cheese sauce.

Bring a large pot of water a pinch of salt to a boil. Cook elbow macaroni in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 8 minutes., drain pasta.

Stir macaroni into cheese sauce with thyme leaves. Divide macaroni mixture between the 2 prepared gratin dishes. Stir bread crumbs and melted butter together in a bowl. Add Parmesan cheese and stir. Top each gratin dish with bread crumb mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. It’s tempting to dig right in but you might want to cool it off first!

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