Christmas in the South……
If you have spent any time in the south you will know that they eat more holiday sides, then other part of the country. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas that I learned that there are two holiday sides that no true southern home will ever be without. First is cornbread stuffing. Growing up on the west coast I had never tried it, but now I can’t live without it! The second is baked macaroni and cheese. Yes, believe it or not that is a holiday side dish in the south. And if you haven’t tried it, you are in luck because I am bringing you an amazing baked mac and cheese recipe that you will love indulging in.
I can’t lie, this isn’t a super healthy recipe, but I have made some changes, and upgrades, that make it healthier. I used whole wheat macaroni, real butter, white wheat flour, and cashew milk. It is loaded with two kinds of cheddar cheeses, and I had to sneak some bacon in there, and the oh so coveted crunchy bread crumb topping. (That is my absolute favorite part!) And while this isn’t a dish I would recommend eating every day, it is perfect for the holidays when you crave some serious comfort food. And oh, how comforting this is! As always, I like to make my sides in single serve portions, and this is no different, but you can easily convert it into a casserole size and let everyone just dig in to the cheesy, gooey, goodness that is baked mac and cheese.
When you are looking at the directions for this recipe you may think that it looks like a lot of ingredients, or is really complicated, but it isn’t. If you have ever made a white sauce you are already of the game. If you haven’t, I need to give you a few tips. 😊 First, when you add the flour to the melted butter, take the pan off the heat so it doesn’t seize up, or burn. Then just throw the pan back on the heat for a minute to cook out the flour taste. Then remove the pan from the heat again and add your milk a little bit at a time. At first it will look like glue, but then it will thin out. If you add it all at once it will get lumpy. When you have ¼ cup of milk left you can dump it in and put it back on the heat. Stir frequently until it starts to bubble, then you can add your cheese, and stir until it is melted. Voila! Use this method for anything from white sauce, to béchamel, to gravy, it will never fail you.
Now that you know how to create the perfect, lump free, cheese sauce, you are ready to make the most perfect baked mac and cheese you have ever tasted. I can’t lie, it is seriously addictive. When it comes to the bread crumbs I just used some Italian bread crumbs I had in the pantry, trying to make your prep time shorter. But if you want to make your bread crumbs from scratch feel free. Whether you use store bought, or make your own, you will be immersed in the southern magic of baked mac and cheese. Make sure that you make plenty, everyone will want some, then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Do you eat baked mac and cheese as a holiday side dish?
Double Cheddar and Bacon Baked Macaroni & Cheese
By Angie Gouchenour
2 – 4 servings
1 cup uncooked whole wheat macaroni noodles (Cook according to package directions)
1 Tablespoon salted butter
2 Tablespoons white wheat flour
¾ cup milk (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
1 teaspoon Sugar 2.0
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese- grated
½ cup aged white cheddar cheese – grated (2 packaged slices grated)
¼ cup chopped bacon
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Italian bread crumbs
½ piece of bacon crumbled, or chopped
Preheat the oven to 375’f
Boil the noodles according to the package directions and drain
While the noodles are boiling start your cheese sauce
In a small fry pan melt the butter
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour
Put back on the heat and cook for 1-minute stirring
Remove from the heat and add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring each time (See notes above)
When you have ¼ cup of milk left, pour it into the mixture, stir, and place back on medium heat
Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a boil: add cheese and stir until melted
Pour the cheese mixture into the cooked noodles, add bacon, and fold together
Separate the mixture into two 10-ounce ramekins
In a small dish melt the butter in the microwave, carefully remove and stir in the bread crumbs
Sprinkle evenly over the top of the two filled ramekins and then top with the crumbled bacon
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes