Pancetta Macaroni and Cheese

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I have a complete, pure love for macaroni and cheese.  It’s not something I eat very often but when I do, it’s a pure indulgence and I want it to be good!  One of my favorite restaurants here in Memphis, is Interim.  They have an amazing appetizer called “Mac and Cheese Casserole”.  It’s to die for! It’s full of cheesy pasta with country ham and topped with herb breadcrumbs.  This week, I came up with a new idea for my old macaroni and cheese recipe that reminds me a whole lot of my favorite Interim dish.  The trick is 2 parts in the roux – instead of just browning butter or oil and adding in the flour, I browned the pancetta and then added butter to the pancetta leftover oil (like making a roux for gravy).  That base gave it a slight smokiness, that was very subtle.  The other change I made was adding a little chicken broth to the milk, when making the roux.  This mac and cheese is too good for words!

Macaroni and Fork

Pancetta Macaroni and Cheese Recipe:

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 oz. Diced Pancetta

1 Tbsp. Butter

12 oz. Whole Wheat Elbows (I prefer De Lallo)

1/2 c. Reserved Pasta Water (after pasta is drained)

2 1/2 Tbsp. Self-Rising Flour

2 1/2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 c. Chicken Broth

1 1/2 – 2 cups of 1% Milk

1 c. Shredded Sharp Cheddar

1 c. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1 c. Panko Bread Crumbs

2 Tbsp Olive Oil, in Mister

Boil pasta for 6 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown pancetta in olive oil.  After pancetta is brown, remove from skillet and add butter, with heat on low.  Add flour and stir until barely golden in color.  Slowly whisk in chicken broth, followed by milk, constantly whisking until smooth and thick like gravy.  Add cheese and continue to stir until smooth.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Combine 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water with the cheese sauce and pancetta.  Mix with the drained elbows and place into 6 greased ramekins.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over each pasta dish and mist with EVOO.  Place under LOW broiler for 3-5 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown.  Enjoy!


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