Mac & Cheese, Upgraded

Apparently, I can’t leave well enough alone. (See also: grilled cheese.) I mean, did macaroni and cheese really need changing? It’s carbs (yum) with cheese (double yum). But when you have extra bacon in the fridge and broccoli in the freezer, why not take things up a notch? 😀

I have several mac and cheese recipes saved in my Google reader, but this one from Confections of a Foodie Bride really caught my attention, mostly because it didn’t start with a flour/butter roux. As much as I love a standard “white sauce,” eliminating a step sounded like a good idea for a weeknight meal. I didn’t have plain yogurt on hand, so I ended up substituting sour cream. (I was a little unsure of that step, since Andy is NOT a fan of creamy white “sauces,” but after it cooked together, he had no idea it was in there.) 

In my attempts to eliminate steps (and dishes!), I cooked the broccoli with the pasta. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, I don’t think I’ll go that route again. Each little broccoli floret became a cheese magnet, grabbing the shreds of cheese and refusing to let go. While it wasn’t the end of the world, it made the sauce a little thinner. So, learn from my mistakes and stir the cooked broccoli in AFTER the cheese.


Broccoli & Bacon Mac & Cheese

4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled*
8 ounces of short pasta
12 ounces frozen broccoli
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces freshly shredded cheddar cheese
4 ounces freshly shredded fontina cheese
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil

In a small skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the sliced onions until they are soft, golden and fragrant.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot.

In a separate pan (or in a bowl in the microwave), steam the broccoli until it is crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.

Stir the sour cream and cheese into the pot with the pasta. Mix together until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. If necessary, thin the sauce with the reserved pasta water, adding about 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Mix the onions, bacon and broccoli into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

*My friend Bethany turned me on to the idea of cooking bacon in the oven. I line a baking sheet with foil and bake the strips at 375. It takes about 20 minutes in my oven for the bacon to reach our desired level of “crispiness.” There’s no splatter, no mess, and I don’t burn the bacon anymore! I do turn the slices about halfway through baking, but other than that, it’s completely hands-off. Consider me converted. I’m never pan-frying it again. 

Click here for a printable version.


6 thoughts on “Mac & Cheese, Upgraded

  1. You have taken mac and cheese from side dish to main dish. Yum. I have to try oven baking bacon again. I did something wrong the last time or maybe I am just talented at burning things. 🙂 It may be because I use turkey bacon and there isn’t much fat. I’ll just watch it more closely and see what happens.

  2. Beth,
    This looks amazing! The whole family loves mac and cheese (what’s not to love) but I’d probably appreciate the addition of the green veg and make it more often.

    I love fontina–I bet it’s great with cheddar.

    1. Thanks! I’m thinking I could also get away with adding some spinach or swiss chard too… you know, more green veggies!

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