Bacon and Jalapeño Mac & Cheese

Cheesy and creamy pasta with crispy bacon and jalapeños.

 

If you were to ask me what my favorite food is, my quick response would be pasta. I LOVE me some carbs. I don’t know how someone could not love pasta. First of all, I can’t even count how many styles/shapes of pasta there are. Then you’ve got the sauce options which are also nearly endless, and the extra goodies you can throw in like chicken, veggies, seafood etc.

Now if I had to be a little more specific about my favorite kind of pasta, I think I would have to go with mac & cheese. There’s something that’s so nostalgic and comforting about a traditional bowl of mac & cheese. But aside from being an easy and simple meal, you can easily dress it up a little and use it as a side dish to the main star of the meal. One of my favorite examples of that is white cheddar mac & cheese shells with slow cooked BBQ ribs. Yum! BUT let’s save that for another time, I’m not here to talk about that recipe today.

If you were to ask my husband to pick a favorite pasta, I am pretty sure his answer would be today’s recipe: bacon & jalapeño mac & cheese. He loves his bacon, loves a little heat and of course is a fan of good ol’ mac & cheese. Now I am a wuss when it comes to any type of heat or spice in my food. Seriously, even a little too much pepper and my mouth is on fire. So this is a dish I make just for him to enjoy (I think that’s another reason he loves it so much – he knows I won’t steal it off of his plate). The serving size is perfect for the ramekins that we have and they make great lunches for him to grab and heat up at work.

The foundation of this recipe is the cheese sauce. It’s super creamy and super delicious. My cheese of choice for a “traditional” cheese sauce (like in this recipe) is sharp cheddar. It definitely packs a cheesy punch.If you haven’t already made one from scratch, making a cheese sauce is super easy and SO much better than any store bought sauce or sauces that use that block “cheese” that I’m pretty sure isn’t anywhere close to cheese. 

Also, I use ground mustard in all of my cheese sauces which might seem strange but it adds a little more depth of flavor without being over powering. If you don’t have ground mustard you can add a small amount of prepared mustard as well. Careful not to add too much or the vinegar will overpower the cheese. As for the addition of the bacon … well, I don’t feel the need to explain myself on that one. It’s bacon. With cheese. And pasta. It just belongs there.

To bake this dish I chose individual ramekins for because it worked best for a grab and go lunch but feel free to bake it in a casserole dish instead! You will just need to add a few extra minutes to the bake time.

If y’all are looking for a way to up your mac & cheese game then you totally need to try this recipe! It might sound cheesy, but I think it’s “grate”! … (see what I did there? Cheese humor! Ah puns …)

Happy favorite things Friday! Y’all come back now!

Kayla

Bacon and Jalapeño Mac & Cheese

Bacon and Jalapeño Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups macaroni
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 3 jalapenos - 2 seeded and diced; one sliced into rings
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 (heaping) cup sharp cheddar
  • salt and pepper to taste
    Topping:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • sliced jalapenos

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a pot of bowling, salted water, cook macaroni until al dente, about 5-6 minutes. You want the pasta to still have a bit of a bite to it as it will cook a little more in the oven. You don't want it to be soggy and mushy after baking! Set cooked pasta aside.
  3. In a small skillet cook bacon until crispy (but not burnt!). Remove from skillet and allow to cool slightly on paper towel before chopping into small pieces. Drain some, but not all of the bacon fat from the pan. Use the remaining bacon fat to cook your diced jalapenos until soft. Set aside with chopped bacon.
  4. In the pot you used for the pasta, melt the butter on medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute.
  5. Continue whisking as you pour in the milk. Add ground mustard and season with salt and pepper. Continue whisking over medium heat until sauce starts to thicken slightly.
  6. Remove pot from heat and mix in the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, add in the pasta and mix until fully coated. Add the cooked jalapenos and bacon. Pour the pasta into 2 ramekins for baking.
  7. Using the skillet from the bacon/jalapenos, add butter and breadcrumbs for the topping. Toast on low for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. When breadcrumbs are slightly toasted, top each ramekin with half of the mixture. Arrange your sliced jalapenos on top of the bread crumbs.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
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