The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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32 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

32 responses to “The Cheesiest Mac of them All

  1. JRenee

    You are the Paula Dean of New York.. “Well, let’s just add a little bit more cheese to that!” Love it!

  2. WHAT DO I GET NO MENTION HERE?! I ate 3 bowls and then went and ate a slider in front of Victoria Secret models.

    This mac is seriously bomb, though.

  3. Songbird

    OMG- love mac&cheese!! And that looks super cheesy! I am so trying that recipe tnite!

  4. I’ve long wondered what percentage of the population consider mac n’ cheese an integral part of the Thanksgiving spread…
    http://randyhoward.info

  5. Farrell

    If I wasn’t screaming in horror at the cheese, I would totally make this myself.

    I couldn’t resist. Love ya, Lauren.

  6. i know you jsut started your blog, and i hope you’d keep it gng cause it’s super awesome! 🙂 comfort food at it’s best, i’ve been looking for the cheesist mac and cheese recipe ever. gonna try that out. 🙂 thank u so much for sharing!

  7. Love mac & cheese. My mom makes the best mac and cheese. Thanks for the recipe! Will have to try yours out.

  8. I have started to crave by just looking at those pics… already emailed the link to my wife… begged her on the phone to follow your recipe and make these for dinner tonight… hope i get lucky enough.

  9. Sounds yummy! I like to balance my mac n cheese out with some veggies. I add either sundried tomatoes or peas and it is FANTASTIC!! Ahhh…so many versions of this yummy pasta dish!

  10. hem…i love cheese so much,,,

  11. This looks amazing. I’m not a big sharp cheddar fan, can another cheese be used??

    • you can totally be creative! i suggest, in place of cheddar, any cheese with a strong, sharp flavor to stand out against the creaminess of the milk and the mascarpone. maybe an aged gouda (you could use slightly less than the 2 cups if it’s a REALLY strong gouda), or a manchego. anything nutty, smoked, or sharp will work well here.

  12. Mac and cheese is the all-time kid fav. That looks delicious.

  13. My mouth is watering! I love Mac and Cheese

  14. Looks great! I’d love to have a sample.

    Mac and Cheese = best tasting meal.

    Remain.Simple

  15. Mmmmm cheese. Looks yummy.

  16. This looks sooooo goooood!

  17. JMiller

    Forget a Mother’s Day present, just make me this mac and cheese.

    Looks delicious!!!!

  18. awoow, this looks so good!
    I love it love it love it!

  19. Courtney

    Stuck studying in a cold dark library wishing for a bowl of this! YUM!!!!Clearly the study’s going well! 🙂

    You have just defined my night tonight…cosy trackies, slippers and a smile whilst watching Gavin and Stacey with a bowl of Mac and Cheese!
    Thanks!

  20. Looks great. I don’t know if it’ll beat my mother’s homemade mac ‘n cheese recipe, but if there’s one test/experiment I’m willing to do it’s this one!

  21. oh goodness. I need to face plant in that stat.

  22. carolineh4545

    this looks very interesting and hope it tasted good!!!!

  23. Nice shots – and good food pics aren’t easy to do!

  24. gosh my favorite.thank you for the recipe.i’m gonna start trying this one now.yummy!!!

  25. Andrea

    I will use this recipe in the fall with my roomes in our studet apartment! This is a great recipe! I Will be reading the rest of te recipes on your blog!

  26. I’ll tell my wife about it!

  27. I found your site from the WordPress.com page which has several sites that are strong enough to make the page.
    Your site is wonderful and beautiful…
    Thanks.

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