February 9, 2010

Crunchy Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon {Webisode #12}

My Day So Far: A morning trip to Dorie’s Cookie Bar with friends!
Naptime Goals: Prepare Crunchy Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon for dinner, start packing for trip to Florida!
Tonight’s Meal: Macaroni and Cheese, green salad with arugula, pine nuts and gorgonzola.

Parenting Lesson of the Day: Sometimes packing for vacation feels like moving an army.

I’ve never met anyone who does not like Macaroni and Cheese. It probably isn’t totally off base to assume that it is one of America’s favorite casseroles. There are endless variations, and even entire cookbooks devoted strictly to the myriad of ways it can be assembled. My family is no different from the rest of America in our love for this classic dish. In fact, it is often served as the main course at our house these days, too prominent and important to be regarded as the side dish to larger meals like baked ham or steak.

Recently I came across this recipe on Food52 which directed me to this other article by Julie Moskin. In both instances the authors write about their preference, on occasion, for crunchy macaroni and cheese instead of the common creamy variety.  I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I am in the mood for a dense pasta casserole full of white sauce and several mild cheeses similar to my Orecchiette with Three Cheeses and Pancetta, but other times I prefer a sharper cheese and firmer pasta. In fact, to be completely honest, I have been known to eat the crust off of my deep dish macaroni and cheese, then leave the rest for my daughter.

Imagine my glee when I discovered this new technique for making macaroni and cheese on sheet pan. It contains all of the delicious sharp cheddar flavors I love and is baked in a single layer to maintain an even crunch. The touch of milk poured on top helps keep the cheese slightly loose, but this recipe essentially makes a delicious macaroni and cheese crust without the soupy underbelly. To give it some additional flavor adapted the original recipe by adding some crunchy bacon and panko bread crumbs.

To demonstrate how easy this is to prepare I made the video above during my daughter’s afternoon naptime. I simply baked the pan and reheated it in the evening. However, I should mention that this is so simple it can also be assembled right before you want to eat if you don’t have much time to prepare it during the day. I guarantee once you try this you will love it, it is the family classic re-invented.


Crunchy Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

adapted from Amanda Hesser and Julie Moskin


3 T. butter
12 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
¼ t. dry mustard
6 strips good quality bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped
½ c. panko bread crumbs
2/3 c. whole milk
1 lb. pasta spiral or curls

Pinch Salt


1. Preheat oven to 475ºF. Take 1 T. of butter and thickly grease an 11×17 inch jelly roll pan. Make sure every inch is covered.
2. In a large heatproof bowl combine the cheese and set aside 2 c. in a separate measuring cup.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes. Drain.
4. Working quickly, put the drained pasta in the bowl with the cheese, add the mustard, a pinch of salt, the bacon pieces and panko. Using a wooden spoon, toss the mixture until all evenly incorporated.
5. Next, spread the mixture onto the buttered sheet pan and pour the milk evenly over the surface. Top with the remaining cheese and dot with remaining butter.
6. Finally, bake it for 15 minutes, until golden and crisp.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

If you’d rather not have bacon you can feel free to omit it and just stick to classic Mac and Cheese. Another thought, if you’d like you could add chopped red pepper or tomatoes for a nice vegetable twist.

Naptime Stopwatch

As you can see, making this takes a brief 20 minutes, including baking time. The biggest time saver is staging the cheese and bacon – prepare them ahead of time so everything can be assembled while the pasta is still hot.

Naptime Reviews

This is a huge hit with both adults and children. It is also great for parties, it’s easy to prepare and great for kids.

More Naptime Recipes