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Recipe from a Guest Blogger – Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta and Peas

June 1, 2009

When Gayle asked me to guest blog for her, I figured it would be easy.  I cook.  I eat.  I like both.  Turns out I’m not very good at actually following a recipe – even my own.  I had to keep changing my notes to what I really did, instead of what I planned to do.  The good news is, this was fantastic, and I can actually recreate it again.  I hope some of you enjoy it.  -E11even

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta and Peas

Ingredients:

8 ounces of uncooked macaroni (or frankly, whatever small pasta you’d like)

4 TB of butter (yeah, yeah, you can probably do it with only 2-3 TB, but really, why?)

2 TB of flour

1.5 cups of milk (I use 2%, because that’s what we have, I’m pretty sure 1% or skim would work fine)

1 TB of spicy or Dijon mustard (something grainy and brown, not that yellow stuff)

4 ounces of a four cheese blend that includes parmesan, asiago, fontina and provolone, shredded, divided (I buy this at Trader Joe’s.  I’m sure they have it other places too, or you could buy the individual cheeses and make your own, or you could use whatever cheeses you think go best after reading the whole recipe)

3 ounces of cheddar cheese, shredded (I prefer extra sharp)

1 cup of frozen peas, defrosted

4 ounces of pancetta, diced up into little pieces

2/3 cup of bread crumbs (I make my own.  I mean, what else is there to do with the heels of the bread you aren’t going to eat anyway, right?  I toast the bread and then have my food processor or mini prep chopper thingie do the work.  The organic artisan sandwich bread from Trader Joe’s makes great crumbs.  It has lots of seeds and crap that’s good for you in it too).  You can use whatever kind you like.  Panko would be nice.

1 ounce of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (you can use that stuff in the green container that claims to be cheese, but I will not vouch for the results it you do)

Cooking spray

Directions:

1)            Prepare macaroni according to package directions, omitting any salt or fat.  Some people say you should cook it for a minute or so less for mac and cheese, but I really can’t tell that it makes a difference if you do.  So whatever works for you.  Drain pasta and set it aside.

2)            At some point in time, don’t forget to turn the oven on to preheat to 375.

3)            Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan.  Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two until it thickens up a little, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Add the milk and the mustard and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 2 to 4 minutes or so.

4)            Slowly add the cheddar cheese and 2 ounces of the Italian cheese mixture, stirring constantly and allowing it to melt before adding more.    Grab a big bowl and toss the pasta and cheese together in it.

5)            Fry up the pancetta a bit.  Just for a few minutes until it gets crisp and a little darker than it was when you started.  Drain off the fat.  I just line a plate with a couple paper towels and dump it on there, and then remove the pancetta once the fat has soaked the towels.  Add the pancetta to the macaroni mixture.  I wish I could tell you exacctly how long this took, but frankly, TEV was dangling from my leg and I was focused on not having any grease burn him and forgot to watch.

6)            Add the peas to the macaroni mix.

7)            Mix it all up well.  Take an 8 X 8 baking dish and coat it with cooking spray.  Add half of the macaroni mixture.  Top it with the remaining 2 ounces of the Italian cheese mix.  Top that with the rest of the macaroni mixture.

8)            Mix the bread crumbs and the parmiagiano reggiano cheese together.  Put that mixture over the top of the macaroni and cheese.  I fully admit to having stolen this topping from a Cooking Light recipe for Four Cheese Creamy Macaroni and Cheese or something like that.  I used to just do the bread crumbs plain.  This way is better.

9)            Pop it in your 375 degree oven until it’s bubbly and the topping is browned.  This usually takes 35 to 40 minutes if you do it right away while everything is still warm.  If, like me, you like to prepare dinner earlier in the day to heat later, it’ll take longer.  I put it in the fridge sometimes for a couple hours, and take it out when I turn the oven on.  Pop it in when the oven’s heated, and it takes closer to an hour.

10)          This makes 4 huge main course servings.  You could probably stretch it to 6.  For Mr. E, TEV and I it’s 2 dinners at least.  As a side dish, it’ll serve  8.  For those of you that don’t eat meat, it’s good without the pancetta.  If you don’t eat peas, leave those out too.  If you’re serving it as a main meal, you really just need a light salad to go with.

Yeah, this recipe isn’t light.  But it’s good.  You can probably lighten it up.  You could probably used reduced fat cheese, and swap out the Pancetta for lean ham or Canadian bacon.  But really folks, it’s macaroni and cheese, eat the real stuff at least once and call it a splurge.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa aka Nutz permalink
    June 1, 2009 3:56 pm

    MMmmmmmmm. I want it. Now.

    Nice job, E!

  2. June 1, 2009 4:00 pm

    That looks like a keeper. I’m going to make it this week.
    At least five times a week, youngest DS wants mac and cheese.

  3. craftycritter permalink
    June 1, 2009 4:08 pm

    Can I come over for dinner some night? 😀 You write your recipes like I write mine.

  4. E11even permalink
    June 1, 2009 4:10 pm

    Thanks Nutz. It’s tasty.

  5. E11even permalink
    June 1, 2009 6:30 pm

    Anyone can come over to dinner any time!

  6. Jenny permalink
    June 1, 2009 6:39 pm

    Oh my. That does look like a keeper. Thanks, E11eben.

  7. lizzi66 permalink
    July 20, 2009 10:56 am

    This was DELISH!! I made it for my husband and son and they loved it.

    Thanks for this!

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