Bacon Mac & Cheese

An easier take on homemade macaroni and cheese. By using the starchy pasta water we do not have make a roux to thicken the sauce. This is the same technique used in Cacio e Pepe. The bacon and onion require just a little extra work and give this a much deeper flavor that plain old mac & cheese.

Ingredients

  • Some bacon
  • Some onion
  • Some pasta
  • Some cheese
  • A dollop of mayonnaise
  • A dollop of spicy brown mustard
  • A few drops of hot sauce

Directions

  1. In a pot bring lightly salted water to a boil.
    • Do not add to much salt. We will put some of this water in the sauce.
  2. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Remove pasta from water but save the water.
    • We need the pasta water for making the sauce.
  4. Cook bacon bits in a stainless or enameled pot until crispy.
    • The stainless or enameled surface helps build a fond for extra flavor.
  5. Remove bacon and place on paper towel.
    • Bacon will get crispier as it cools and the fat drains off of it.
    • Do not leave it in. I did the first time I made this. When making the sauce it got soggy and lost its crisp.
  6. Leave in enough of the bacon fat to saute some onion.
    • You may get to much fat from the bacon and need to remove some.
    • Do not dump all of the fat! Do not clean the pan! That's flavor in there.
  7. Saute some onion.
  8. Add a spoon full of pasta water and deglaze the pot.
    • Add just enough to cover the bottom. It's easier to deglaze if you start small.
    • Use pasta water here because the starches from the pasta can replace the traditional roux.
  9. Turn off heat.
    • Cooking cheese at too high of a temperature causes it to become rubbery and separate from the sauce.
  10. Whisk in cheese and pasta water to make a creamy sauce.
    • Be careful to balance the amount of cheese and pasta water to get your desired consistency.
    • It is much easier to put the cheese in first and then mix the water in a little bit at a time. It is hard to mix things that have different viscosities.
  11. Add mayonnaise, spicy brown mustard, and a little hot sauce.
    • All of these are mainly for augmenting the flavor. Skip them or replace them if you like.
    • Go easy on the mayo. It can quickly make this way to rich.
    • Even if you do not like hot food, you should still try adding hot sauce. A teeny tiny amount of hotness can make the other flavors taste more lively even if you can't taste the hotness it self.
  12. Add pasta and stir to coat.
  13. Dish out and top with bacon bits.