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Blue Cheese Mac & Cheese!

Everybody loves mac and cheese - my family included - and I have a rotating rolodex of recipes I like to go through. However, one of my favorites is this recipe, which includes to me the best mac and cheese flavor - blue cheese! If you don't love blue cheese (are you insane?), you could of course swap it out for something else, like gorgonzola, or a sharp cheddar. This can be either eaten right off the stove, non-baked, or you could bake it with more cheese and toasted breadcrumbs on top. Depends on how ooey-gooey you like it. Both options are listed below. Have fun with it...

Prep work: Cook 16 ounces of macaroni in a large salted pot of water. I'd go for only 5 or 6 minutes, resulting in slightly al dente noodles. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water (something I do for literally every pasta dish I prepare, just in case...). Drain the noodles and get to work on the next step: Fry up 4 ounces of diced pancetta in about a tablespoon of oil, and as it starts to brown then add 4 sliced green onions and 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme. Cook an additional 4 minutes, and set aside.

Make the sauce: in a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, then stir in 3 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Whisk together until well combined, then mix in (whisking constantly) 3/4 cup milk and 1 1/4 cups heavy cream. Bring to a boil, whisking, and let boil for a few minutes - it should be pretty thick by then. Remove it from the heat.

Cheese it up: Stir into the sauce mix 2/3 of a cup of blue cheese, and a cup of parmesan (or you can use a mix here, of say Parmesan/Assiago from Trader Joe's!). Stir together until creamy and gooey, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Now stir in the noodles, and the pancetta mix, and combine all well. If too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta water.

Choose your path: If you like it ooey-gooey, then you are good to go at this point - it's ready to be served. If you want to make a bake out of it, then add more of the pasta water, stir well, and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle more of each cheese on top, as well as about 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, and bake for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees, until browned and bubbly. I'd serve this baked version with some chopped parsley.

Oh yeah...! Enjoy.

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