Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. By mixing up the cheeses and add-ins you can change it up by following the same basic recipe. I rarely make mac and cheese at home anymore – since it would just be me eating it – but luckily my friend Alex is a huge fan. It seems like any time we get together we make some type of mac and cheese. You don’t have to finish it off with baking, but I love the crispy baked cheese on top. You can also top it with breadcrumbs before baking. Oh the possibilities.
Baked Bacon & Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
- ½ lb bacon, diced
- 1 lb chicken breasts, sliced into 1 inch strips
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tsp)
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk // I used whole, but any kind would work
- 6 ounces fontina, shredded // You can use any type of cheese that you want as your main cheese
- 3 ounces parmesan, shredded
- 3 ounces mozzarella, shredded
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- cayenne, optional
- 1 lb pasta // You can use any type of noodle that you like
Turn oven to 400 degrees. It will preheat while you make your mac and cheese. In a large pot, heat salted water over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al-dente. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large stove and oven proof pot, sauté bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add chicken to remaining bacon grease and cook, turning occasionally, until completely cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside. Once cooled slightly, shred into bite-sized bits.
Wipe out pot to remove all remaining oil. Warm milk in the microwave for a minute or so until it is lukewarm. Check it after 30 second intervals so it doesn’t scorch. Return pot to stove, and melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle flour over butter and garlic, and stir into a thick roux. Stir constantly until it starts to turn light brown, about 3 minutes.
Slowly add the warmed milk, while stirring constantly. By doing this, you will insure that there are no lumps.
Continue adding the milk and stirring while it thickens slightly. Turn off heat. You have just created a béchamel sauce
Add cheeses (reserving about ¼ cup to sprinkle on top) to your béchamel sauce, and stir to combine. The heat from the béchamel sauce should be enough to melt the cheeses. Turn the heat onto low if it doesn’t seem to be melting, then turn off the heat immediately after.
Add cooked pasta, mustard, chicken, and bacon to the cheese sauce. Stir to fully combine. Season with salt and pepper (and cayenne if you want a bit of a kick). Once properly seasoned, sprinkle cheese on top of your mac and cheese.
Cook in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until it is bubbling slightly and the cheese has started to brown.
Serve immediately and enjoy!