Who says that mac and cheese is just for the kids?
But we have to admit that Ina Garten’s grown up mac and cheese really is something rather special!
The addition of bacon totally elevates the dish – but, let’s face it, what DOESN’T taste better with bacon?
But what really adds a little sophistication to this recipe and sets it apart as one for the grown ups is the blend of cheeses it contains.
Extra sharp cheddar provides a robust flavor, and the Gruyere lends a certain nuttiness to the dish. The blue cheese, meanwhile, brings a gorgeous pungency to this mac and cheese – and once you’ve tried it this way, you may never settle for plain old mac and cheese again!
Which type of blue cheese should I use?
There are lots of varieties of blue cheeses on the market, which range in flavor from relatively mild (like Danish Blue and Gorgonzola) to in-your-face tangy and delicious (like Roquefort and Maytag).
For this recipe, we’d recommend a stronger blue cheese – the other cheeses in the recipe help balance the flavor, so it’s not overwhelming, just robust!
Making bread crumbs
When you see fresh bread crumbs in a recipe (like this one), don’t be tempted to reach for a pack of store-bought dried bread crumbs. The texture is totally different. Making your own fresh bread crumbs is easy, but it can be a pain if you have to make them separately for every recipe that calls for them.
That’s why we recommend making them in bulk. Just prepare as many slices of bread at a time as you wish, although we suggest processing 2 at a time. That way, you can store 2 slices-worth of bread crumbs individually, making it easy to grab just the amount you need for a specific recipe.
Once you’ve made your bread crumbs (either by whizzing the slices in a food processor, as described in this recipe, or by grating a stale loaf of bread), you can freeze them in zip top bags for up to 3 months. Thaw them thoroughly in the fridge before use.
Ina Garten Grown Up Mac and Cheese
- 0.25 Thick Sliced Bacon
- 1 Vegetable Oil
- 1 Kosher Salt
- 2 Elbow Macaroni or cavatappi
- 1.5 Milk
- 2 Unsalted Butter
- 2 All-Purpose Flour
- 4 Gruyere Cheese grated
- 3 Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated
- 2 Blue Cheese crumbled
- 0.25 Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Ground Nutmeg
- 2 White Sandwich Bread crusts removed
- 2 Fresh Basil Leaves chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a baking rack, then set the rack on a sheet pan.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy.
- Remove the pan from the oven, remembering to take care as it will contain hot grease.
- Drain the bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.
- When it’s cool enough to handle, crumble it between your hands.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add a little oil.
- Pour in the macaroni and cook according to package directions, for around 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, warm the milk in a small saucepan without boiling it.
- In a medium pan, melt the butter and add the flour.
- Whisking constantly, cook over a low heat for 2 minutes.
- Gradually add the hot milk, continuing to whisk, and cook for a couple more minutes, until thickened and smooth.
- Remove from the heat and add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Finally, stir in the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon.
- Divide into 2 individual size gratin dishes.
- Pulse the bread slices in a food processor until you have coarse crumbs, then add the basil and pulse briefly to combine.
- Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta and place in the oven.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.