This installment of Barefoot Bloggers was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl, and I could just give her a big hug for picking macaroni and cheese. I mean, really, who DOESN’T love macaroni and cheese?! And what are the odds that Ina Garten would create a mac n’ cheese that wasn’t freaking fantabulous? I have been making the same baked macaroni and cheese recipe for the past year or so, and this version wasn’t too terribly different, but it introduced some “grown up” flavor in terms of the types of cheeses used and the addition of bacon. This really was a fabulous recipe, it certainly lived up to the hype!
The cheeses used in this recipe were Gruyere, white cheddar, and blue cheese – a very upscale divergence from Velveeta, wouldn’t you say? I am not a fan of blue cheese so I substituted fontina in its place, and the combination was phenomenal. At first I was a little fearful that the Gruyere might overpower the other flavors in this dish, but they all melded together wonderfully. I did do a little cheating in this recipe. Instead of baking the bacon in the oven, I just microwaved it until crispy (how I usually cook bacon). Also, in place of grinding my own breadcrumbs, I just sprinkled Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs over the top of the finished dish before popping it in the oven. It’s also apparent that I didn’t use elbows or shell pasta – I used gemelli because, for whatever reason, I have found that it’s my absolute favorite pasta to eat in macaroni and cheese!
An additional note – I don’t have individual size gratin dishes (and Ina, for the love of God, please, PLEASE start alluding to some sort of size when you mention baking dishes and pans in your recipes!! This is my only beef with you!), so I baked this in a 2 quart casserole dish, which worked out just perfectly.
And one more note (I swear this is the last – I keep thinking of things!) – at first I thought the fact that this served 2 was ridiculous, and maybe I’m just a pig, but yeah, I think two main course servings is about right.
2. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.
3. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.
5. Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.