Ultimate Mac ‘n’ Cheese Casserole: The Best Thing to Happen to Pasta, Cheese and Bacon
I know it’s the middle of summer and you may not want to turn on that oven. But I’m here to convince you that this ultimate mac ‘n’ cheese is THE casserole dish you need. You’re going to want to make it — no matter the heat — after you read what’s in it.
Ooey-gooey, cheesy and bacon-y pasta: It’s all here, and it will surely tempt you. Why? Because the orecchiette pasta is covered with the silkiest sauce of Gruyere and sharp white cheddar. Because crispy bacon pieces are sprinkled throughout the dish AND on the top. Need I say more?
The orecchiette pasta is the perfect shape for this dish because the cheese and bacon nestle into the pasta’s earlike grooves to give you the ultimate mac ‘n’ cheese experience. And perhaps best of all, in keeping with the Party of Two theme, this recipe feeds two people, which means that you won’t end up with a heaping amount of leftovers, as is often the case with classic casseroles.
Ultimate Mac ‘n’ Cheese Casserole
Prep time: 20 minutes; Cook time: 30 minutes; Total time: 50 minutes
2 cups orecchiette pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 slices of crispy bacon, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease a 2-quart ovensafe casserole dish. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, following the directions on the pasta package. You’ll want it to still have a bite to it because it will finish cooking in the oven.
In the meantime, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes while whisking vigorously so it doesn’t burn. Continue to whisk as you add the milk, then let the mixture gently come to a simmer and thicken, about 5 minutes.
Add the Gruyere and white cheddar cheeses to the skillet and stir together with a spatula until all the cheese has melted. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the skillet from the heat.
At this point, the pasta should be done cooking. Drain well and add to the cheese sauce. Gently toss the pasta with the cheese sauce until everything is covered. Sprinkle half the bacon mixture into the skillet and toss to incorporate.
Pour pasta mixture into prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining bacon pieces, and then place, uncovered, in oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly and pasta is cooked through.
After 30 minutes, remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
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