I think I had you at bacon, right?
This is not the typical mac & cheese that you may have grown up eating, but I can assure you that it’s got every bit of that gooeyness and flavour that is synonymous with it. I can safely say that this version is way simpler too – no fussy béchamel sauce, cheese custard making etc.,
The first step involves frying the bacon bits and setting it aside until it’s called for later. THIS is my favourite part of the recipe – the bacon juices that collect at the bottom of the pan – liquid gold. It makes for the most incredible base flavour that permeates through the sauce and gets absorbed by all the mushrooms, peppers and onions. Almost poetic?!
The smokiness from the bacon counteracts the cheese beautifully and elevates all of its flavours. I can’t think of making this dish without the chillies, and I would strongly recommend that you leave it in, unless of course you are completely spice intolerant.
I’d like to give my mom credit for the inspiration behind this little wonder. Even though I’ve made it a few times now giving it my own twists from time to time, I know I can follow her recipes to a tee and it’ll come out just perfect!
This Mac and cheese has comfort food written all over it. Try it once and you’ll keep getting bac-on it!
300 grams conchiglie (they resemble conch shells) or elbow macaroni
150 grams of aged yellow cheddar
4 rashers of bacon
2 small onions, roughly chopped
1 1/2 green peppers, finely chopped
1 green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
350 grams button mushrooms, diced
1 1/2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
A pinch of chilli powder
2 tbsp olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (put in the salt after the water starts to boil) Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 a cup of the salted starchy water and set aside.
In a pan over medium heat, snip the bacon into small bits and wait for it to crisp up. Remove and set aside. Add the olive oil to the same pan that contains the bacon juices, and sauté the onions for a few minutes, until they caramelize and turn golden brown.
Add the mushrooms, green peppers and green chilli, and soften. Put in the tomatoes at this stage and sauté for a further 4-5 minutes or until the tomatoes shrink in size and darken slightly.
Add in the bacon bits, chilli powder, oregano and salt and stir until well combined. Add the macaroni to the above vegetable mixture and toss to combine.
Grate in the cheese with the pan on low heat, and add the residual cooking water that was kept aside to loosen the consistency if need be.