It should come as no surprise to any of you that mac and cheese made with bacon is some pretty amazing stuff. I mean, we’re friends here, right? And whether you’ve been reading along with me for years or are a newcomer, you’re here because we have similar tastes in food.
So you’ll trust me, and not think me dramatic, when I tell you that this bacon and fontina mac and cheese is truly the most amazing, the most jaw-dropping, sigh-inducing bit of comfort food that I may have ever made? Yes, better than my favorite lasagna, eggplant parm, or pizza. (Is it a just a coincidence that two of them also contain fresh spinach?)
I’m not about to say, however, that it’s better than my favorite stove top mac and cheese, because well, this one is baked and therefore does take a little more time to prepare…but baking this bacon and fontina mac and cheese does not at all take away any of it’s creaminess as some baked recipes do. Plenty of homemade cheesy sauce (made with bacon drippings!!) gets dumped over the pasta and then it’s all stirred up with crumbled bacon and fresh spinach. Awesomeness. Pure awesomeness here.
Bacon and Fontina Mac and Cheese
source: adapted from Annie’s Eats
- 12 oz dry pasta (I used medium shells)
- 6 oz bacon, chopped
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 8 oz Fontina cheese, grated
- 1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach (3 oz)
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, salt the water, and boil the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions instruct; drain and return the pasta to its original pot. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray; set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until crispy. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter in the bacon fat. Whisk in the flour and garlic and cook, stirring until the flour is golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk so that no lumps of flour remain. Heat the milk until it thickens and bubbles, about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese by the handful, allowing the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding the next handful. The sauce should be smooth.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir in the crumbled bacon and spinach. The spinach will take a little work to get to wilt, but the heat from the sauce and pasta will help with this. Once the spinach has wilted a little and the pasta is nicely coated with the sauce, pour the pasta into the prepared baking dish, smooth out the top, and sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs over the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sides are bubbly and the breadcrumbs have started to brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving hot.