Quarantine Mac & Cheese

During the time that we have been under the Stay at Home order, I have been preparing more meals than I had been for a few months prior. Some of the meals have been solely based on items in the pantry, while others have included ingredients that I picked up on one of our infrequent trips to the grocery store. Tonight, I made something that was a bit of a mix of the two.

When it comes to looking for a meal that will pique the interest of the majority of my household, macaroni and cheese is practically guaranteed to be a hit. We always have some shape of dried pasta in our pantry and the basic ingredients for a good béchamel sauce. Our more special ingredients for this particular dish included multiple cheeses that we don’t usually have on hand and bacon that I made from a pork belly I bought at a local butcher shop a few weeks ago.

For the sake of nostalgia, the pasta I used was good old elbow macaroni. I have always liked the way that the cheesy sauce fills the elbows as well as coats the outside of them. I made the sauce with some 3 tablespoons of Kerrygold butter, 3 tablespoons of AP flour and 2 cups of milk. To flavor this sauce, I added 4 oz. of bacon and a cup of Vidalia onion that I diced and sautéed. Finally, I sprinkled in a teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika.

The cheeses that I chose for this dish included 4 oz. of Tillamook medium cheddar, 4 oz. of Frico smoked Gouda and an 8 oz. tub of mascarpone. The cheddar offers a nice smooth taste and a good color to make the sauce a pleasant orange. The Gouda provides a well-rounded smokiness and a nice melty texture. The mascarpone brings a richness that finished off this velvety sauce.

I combined the cheeses with the béchamel made this a mornay sauce. I stirred the elbow macaroni into this then poured that mixture into a buttered baking dish. The baking dish went into the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. When it came out it was slightly crispy on top and bubbling around the edges.

I served this with a side of steamed broccoli and garnished it with scallions and a pinch of the same smoked Spanish paprika that had gone into the béchamel sauce. For a beverage I made a nice, spicy Bloody Maria. Its spiciness made a good match for the smokiness of the mac and cheese. This is a dish that I will definitely make again.

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