This recipe, developed by former test kitchen chef Mark Graham in the Tribune test kitchen and first published in 2002, adds color (from the tomatoes) and crunch (crisp bits of bacon) to a macaroni and cheese base. You can experiment with other versions by stirring in chopped ham or chicken along with your favorite vegetables.
This recipe was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
- 3/4 Cups breadcrumbs
- 1 package (1 pound) cavatappi or penne pasta
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 1/8 Teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 quart milk
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 Pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1/2 Pound processed cheese (such as Velveeta)
- 3 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 Pound bacon, cooked, crumbled
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
Step 1: Heat oven to 350 F.
Step 2: Generously butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Add 1/4 cup bread crumbs; shake to coat dish evenly.
Step 3: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 1 pound cavatappi or penne pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Place in large bowl.
Step 4: In large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; cook 1 minute.
Step 5: Whisk in 1 quart milk all at once. Heat to boil; simmer, stirring, 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 pound shredded Gruyere cheese and 1/2 pound processed cheese (such as Velveeta) until melted.
Step 6: Add cheese sauce to pasta, mix well. Spoon 1/2 of the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Add 3 diced plum tomatoes and 1 pound cooked and crumbled bacon in an even layer. Top with remaining macaroni mixture.
Step 7: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup bread crumbs with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle over the macaroni. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes.