Mrs. Regueiro's Plate: Mac and Cheese with Pancetta

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mac and Cheese with Pancetta

Last weekend, I had this crazy urge to make some serious comfort food. The kind the puts you in a food coma, and your tummy aches because you are stuffed like a little pig. I had thoughts of fluff and cheese, and donuts and cake and then it hit me, macaroni came to my head. I love macaroni and cheese, you know the kind from a blue box, its a sweet reminder of the childhood days. Back then my cooking skills were zero...I never read the box for directions. To tell you the truh I did not pay attention to the methods of measurement, too. I prepared it as I thought I saw my mom cooked it. Boil water, add pasta, cook for whatever time, and mix it up. Lovely orange powder that was supposed to be the cheese. I'm laughing as I'm recollecting my horrible days as a young chef, but I swear I pay very close attention to my cooking nowadays. This is a grown up version for adults, it's so creamy and delicious that you forget that about that blue box. It's made with real cheese, so comforting and sooooo so-so good. Food coma achieved!

Mac & Cheese with Pancetta
Adapted from Bon Appetit

8 tablespoons butter, divided
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups lowfat milk
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grate Parmesan cheese
1 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound large elbow macaroni

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; saute until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute.
2. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute.
3. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 13x9x2 pyrex baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add warm cheese sauce; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Back mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Review: This mac and cheese can be a meal in itself. There is so much leftover, that I had to freeze half of it for my sister. The flavors were wonderful, and it's a great twist on a childhood favorite of mine.
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