Homemade Bacon Mac and Cheese

This recipe is from the podcast episode Mac and Cheese and Poor Man's Budgeting

Mac and cheese is a great family favorite. You can dress up your #macandcheese and still stick to your budget. Your whole family is sure to love it!

This recipe should take about 30 minutes of prep work and another 30 minutes to cook.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 3 cups of warmed whole milk

  • Kosher salt and pepper for taste

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder

  • 1 cup finely grated American cheese

  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1 pound of short pasta (elbow or rigatoni)

  • 3 tablespoons of butter

  • 1/2 pound of bacon

There is one ingredient that I will suggest that you may not have thought of, but it’s actually pretty inexpensive, and that’s mustard powder. You might also see it called mustard ground. That’s okay too.

Bear with me, I know you might not have thought of it as something to put in cheesy noodles, but it’s actually perfect for cutting through some of the fatty content in rich foods, like cheese.

Even if you don’t like mustard on a burger, you might have already had it in really fancy restaurant mac and cheese and not have realized it before. It’s one of the secret ingredients of great mac. I purchased a 1.5 ounce bottle of it in the spice aisle for $2.68, which is more than plenty and will give you plenty left over later when your kids beg to have your homemade mac and cheese again.

Then you’ll want 3 different kinds of cheese. I find it cheaper and fresher to buy the blocks of cheese and shred it myself because I hate paying a convenience fee for my cheese when I can just do it myself.

You’ll need American cheese, sharp cheddar, and parmesan. Prep your cheese by letting it sit in the freezer for a few minutes, usually five is okay, to toughen it up a little bit. It’s a lot easier to actually use the cheese grater and less likely to result in injury. Blood cheese is just for vampires.

You’ll need 1 cup of grated parmasen and 2 cups of grated sharp cheddar. But you’ll want to use the fine teeth on your cheese grater for the American cheese and you’ll want a cup of that.

Remember, from our Bacon and Banking episode, if you’re going to add bacon, it’s best to grab a package that doesn’t have sodium ascorbate or sodium erythorbate. But if you really want cured bacon and your grocery store doesn’t have an option without one or the other, sodium ascorbate is the worst of the two.

Step 1:

First up is cooking your bacon. I like mine to be pretty crispy. After it’s cooked you can set it aside on a paper towel and plate to cool. You’ll come back later to chop it down into smaller pieces, about the size of your pinky nail.

Step 2:

While it’s cooling you can boil your pasta in salted water in a medium pot. You’ll want to cook until it’s al dente. I use the package the noodles came in as a guide and just subtract 2 minutes so I know when to check.

Before you drain your pasta keep in mind that mac and cheese can tend to cool off a little quicker, so if you’re worried about a time delay between getting everyone to the table and finishing your mac, you can actually set aside some of the pasta water to help you. If it cools, you pour just a little bit into the mac. So set aside some of the pasta water if needed and drain the rest when your noodles are nice and al dente.

Step 3:

You’ll put the empty pot on medium heat again and add your butter. You’ll see it melt and start to see that it foams up a little bit, that’s when you’ll add your flour and whisk it gently until the color starts to darken. If you’re using vegan butter, just try to aim for 1 to 2 minutes since it doesn’t tend to darken like regular butter.

Step 4:

You’ll add your new pasta-making best friend, mustard powder, and whisk it until it’s completely combined. Then very slowly add your milk and whisk it as you go. Definitely don’t just throw it in there or put it in and then the mustard powder. Mustard before milk.

Step 5:

Bring your new mixture to a boil for a few moments and drop the heat back down again to medium. Then you’ll want to stir it often for the next 2 and a half to 4 minutes until it’s thickened enough to have it stick to the backside of a spoon.

Step 6:

Reduce your heat to low and you’re almost done. It’s time for the fun part. We’re practicing our ABCs here. So you’ll want to put your cheese into the pot in alphabetical order, so start with your American cheese, then your Cheddar, and lastly your Parmesan. I’ve found that it’s better to add each cheese individually rather than combining them.

Step 7:

Then stir your new cheesy blend with your whisky and add salt and pepper to your tastes, but I generally recommend starting with ½ teaspoon of salt and a ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Add in your pasta and stir it up with some tasty #bacon bits and you’re ready for some delicious mac and cheese.

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