Pancetta Mac and Cheese, Please!

Who doesn’t love a warm serving of macaroni and cheese? I guess I’ve been craving comfort food lately –mainly, things that you can eat out of a bowl. It’s not really been cold enough for chili yet, so the other night I decided to serve up one of my favorite comfort foods as our main dish: mac and cheese. My friend Chassie was moving and gave me a great collection of cookbooks that I immediately went through and started tagging pages. This mac and cheese caught my eye when I noticed that pancetta was involved. I LOVE pancetta. It’s an Italian style bacon — we buy it at Trader Joe’s in the cold cuts section. It comes in a small 3-4 oz packet of tiny diced deliciousness. Lately we add pancetta to just about everything: scrambled eggs, pasta, omlettes. Just a tiny bit adds a big dose of flavor.

This recipe was super easy and delicious. I even used a raw white cheddar and I couldn’t tell the difference. The sauce was thick and creamy, better than other recipes I’ve tried in the past. It was a bit heavy to eat as a main dish (ok… there was a side salad but still…)  so next time I’ll probably just serve it as a side.

Ingredients:

2.5 C macaroni noodles (we used shells)
2.5 oz diced pancetta
1 C heavy cream
1/5 C milk
2 C grated Gruyere cheese
1 C grated white cheddar
1 C grated Parmesean
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
2 T chopped chives, plus extra to use as garnish (optional)

Prepare:

1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil and add your macaroni noodles. Allow to boil until cooked al dente, not too soft. Drain and keep warm.

2. While the noodles are boiling, cook your pancetta in a saucpan over medium heat until the pancetta is lightly golden. Drain on paper towels. Reduce heat of the saucepan to a medium low and add your cream and milk, bringing it to a slow simmer. Add in your garlic and cheeses, stirring regularly. Add your mustard and paprika. Stir for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and creamy and the cheeses are melted. If the sauce seems super thick, you can add milk a tsp at a time until you get the right consistency.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked noodles, pancetta, cheese sauce and chives. Stir until just combined. Top with extra chives. Serve piping hot!

Adapted from Bowl Food. Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish.

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