There is perhaps no other food that screams “nostalgic comfort” to me more than Mac-and-Cheese. Mac-and-Cheese is my go-to when sick, or sad, or just want something that will hit the spot. Because I love it so much, I have experimented with different recipes over the years, adding more grown-up ingredients, trying different types of cheese, and different cuts of pasta. And while I truly love all of the iterations I have made, this mushroom, bacon, 2-cheese mac is one of the very best. My toddler, my finance, and my friends all rave about this version – so I make a huge batch so that we can enjoy leftovers!
Bacon Mushroom Mac and Cheese
Prep Time: 60 min
Makes: 8-12 servings
- 2 LBS. ELBOW PASTA, OR PASTA CUT OF CHOICE (SEE NOTES)
- ½ LB. BACON, CUT INTO BITE-SIZED PIECES
- 6-8 OZ. (1 CLAM SHELL) WHITE MUSHROOMS, SLICED
- 1 TBS GARLIC, MINCED
- 2-4 TBS BUTTER, SEPARATED
- 1/3 CUP FLOUR
- 2 CUPS HEAVY CREAM
- 2 CUPS WHOLE MILK, SEPARATED
- SALT & PEPPER, TO TASTE
- 2 CUPS CHEDDAR CHEESE, SHREDDED
- 2 CUPS GRUYERE CHEESE, SHREDDED
- ½ CUP BREADCRUMBS
- Fill a large pot with water, add a few large dashes of salt, bring to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly undercooked or “al dente”. Set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- While pasta is boiling, work on the other components of the dish. Render the cut bacon pieces over low-medium heat in a large pan. Cook until crispy, remove from pan, set on a paper towel-lined plate.
- In the same pan, sauté the cut mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat. Add garlic and continue to heat until cooked through, approx. 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms, add to the same plate as bacon.
- Since the mushrooms have likely soaked up some of the bacon fat, add butter to the same pan. You want approx. 3 TBS total fat so adjust the amount of butter added as needed. Once melted, sprinkle flour evenly over the butter and quickly whisk to form a paste, known as a roux. In a consistent stream, slowly pour the heavy cream and one cup of milk into the roux as you continue whisking. The mixture will continue to thicken, whisking to ensure no lumps.
- Once the milk mixture is consistent and blended, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add shredded cheeses, again continuing to stir until all ingredients are combined and smooth. Add back in the mushrooms and bacon. Stir to incorporate.
- Pour cheese, bacon-mushroom mixture over cooked pasta. You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your pot to ensure cheese sauce is evenly distributed on pasta. If the mixture feels dry in any area, pour a few tablespoons of remaining milk into pasta to help you continue to mix and stir evenly.
- Pour 2 TBS melted butter into a small bowl with breadcrumbs. Mix together and pour breadcrumbs over the top layer of mac and cheese.
- Place tossed pasta into the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 mins to warm through and continue to ensure the cheese is melty. Serve warm.
- While you can use any cut of pasta you prefer, the “curlier” the cut, the better as it holds on to more sauce. My personal favorite cut of pasta is Cavatappi, although I can’t always find it. However, elbow always works.
- You can make the pasta the day before.
- You can also use any type of mushroom that you’d like. I like baby portabella for this recipe as well.
- I usually don’t rely on a ton of fancy kitchen tools as most are just gimmicks BUT a flat whisk for making the cheese sauce really helps here. A regular whisk will certainly work but harder to get into the “corners” of the pan to fully incorporate all ingredients
- You can also use 2% milk but I wouldn’t use skim or nut-milk alternatives, the fat in the whole milk contributes to the creaminess of this dish.
- You can use sharp or mild cheddar. I happened to have mild on hand but sharp will give even a cheesier taste to the dish. Again, feel free to experiment with different, melt-able cheeses of your choice.
- When making this for myself, I actually don’t use the breadcrumb topping at all. My fiancé likes the breadcrumbs as it adds a contrasting texture but there is no culinary need for them, it’s simply a personal preference and if cutting down on steps, this one could certainly be left out.