Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Best Ever Cheese, Bacon, Mushroom ('Mac-Mac-Cheese') Gourmet Pasta Bake

I love macaroni cheese. Not the molten-Cheez-wizz-on-tiny-macaroni type of mac and cheese, but the type of macaroni cheese that by rights should be called a 'fusilli carbonara pasta bake', or something.

The reference in the title to 'Mac-Mac-Cheese' comes from my sister's son, my nephew, Rocky. It doesn't matter what I put in this dish, if it has pasta and cheese in it, he calls it a macaroni cheese (AKA 'mac-mac-cheese'). Even if it contains truffles or foie gras. Or bananas.

Oh, the other thing: It's not really a 'bake' - you just fold the sauce through the pasta and grill the top with a delicious breadcrumb and parmesan crust. Sorry, I don't make up the rules.

In today's recipe, the humble mac and cheese has evolved beyond convenience food to become a gourmet dinner party creation involving pancetta, mature cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, large field mushrooms, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil. If it was up to Mrs Ribeye, we would eat this every week - but then she'd be married to a fatty, which she wouldn't like so much - so once a month it is, maximum.

To keep the cholesterol down to it's bare minimum, I make my cheese sauce with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, and all those good fatty acids help me feel less guilty about the mountain of cheese I add. Plus I find that it makes a smoother and more authentic Italian style sauce. It's so delicious, that you'll never want to use butter again.

Buy the best pancetta, cheese, olive oil and pasta that you can find, and this still comes in well under budget at £2 per serving.

Serve with a green salad tossed with a sharp vinaigrette dressing, to cut the richness of this deliciously cheesy dish.

Serves 4


500g dried rigatoni, fusilli or penne pasta
25g of salt
25ml of olive oil
200g pancetta or streaky bacon, cut into 1cm dice
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
200g mushrooms, cut into 2cm chunks
75ml extra virgin olive oil
75g plain flour
500ml milk
Pinches of salt and pepper
200g cheddar cheese, grated
50g breadcrumbs
50g parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta, with the 25g of salt, in plenty of water. While the pasta is cooking, fry the pancetta, onion, garlic and mushrooms with the 25ml of oil, on a moderate heat, until translucent. In a separate pan, on a moderate heat, cook the 75ml of oil with the flour until you have a smooth paste (approx 5 minutes). Add the milk in 50ml batches until you have incorporated all of the milk and you have a lump-free sauce. Add the salt and pepper and keep cooking until the sauce has slightly thickened (approx 15 minutes), stirring to prevent burning. Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheese until it has melted and the sauce is thick. Add the pancetta mix to the sauce and fold through. Drain the pasta and add the sauce to the pasta pan. Fold the sauce through the pasta and transfer the mix to a roasting dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese over the surface. Place under a hot grill until the top is golden and crunchy (approx 5 minutes). Serve with a green salad.

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