This obsession I have with macaroni and cheese may never end. It is just too good. How can you not love it?
My most recent mac and cheese adventure was a BLT version with bacon, leeks, tomatoes, colby jack cheese, and a toasted bread crumb topping. While this did not quite live up to the deliciousness of other macs, it was still very tasty. I liked the subtle flavor of the leeks, juicy tomatoes, salty bacon and creamy cheese.
The inspiration for this dish came while I was perusing recipes and found a BLT pizza that used arugala as the “lettuce” in the BLT. I thought it could be changed a bit to make mac and cheese. I searched BLT mac and cheese and found quite a few recipes, the top result being one from Rachel Ray. It sounds pretty tasty, and I will probably try it sometime and see how it compares to this one. She uses cream cheese in her recipe, and does not make a roux at all. I like making the cheese sauce with the roux, milk and cheese, but maybe she’s on to something with the cream cheese. I’ll let you know once I try it out.
All the recipes I found had a few basics in common. All used bacon and tomatoes, of course, most used leeks, and arugala was the lettuce in most recipes that I found. I could not find arugala at the grocery store, so my leeks became the “L” in this BLT.
Bacon, Leek and Tomato Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 lb. short tubular pasta, such as penne
- 12 slices of bacon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 12 ounces shredded cheese, cheddar, Monterey jack, etc
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts
- 4 roma tomatoes
- ¾ to 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and place cooked pasta in a large bowl; set aside.
- Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet, leaving drippings in the pan, to paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Chop bacon into ½ inch pieces then place in the large bowl.
- Slice leek in half lengthwise, then submerge halves in cold water to rinse out any dirt. Remove from water, pat dry and slice into ½ inch pieces. Saute the leeks in the skillet with bacon drippings over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, just until it softens up and place in the large bowl.
- Cut tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.
- In a sauce pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Once it’s completely melted, add the flour and whisk to create a roux. Allow to just come to a boil and then slowly stir in the milk, then the garlic. Allow the milk to come to a simmer and thicken, whisking frequently to avoid clumps. Once it thickens up to coat the back of the spoon, turn off the heat. Carefully stir in the cheeses until melted. Add the garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and other ingredients in the large bowl and mix well to combine.
- Spread half the pasta mixture into a pan, then layer half the tomato slices on top. Cover with the rest of the pasta, then the rest of the tomatoes.
- In a small skillet, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir until the crumbs are slightly golden brown. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top of the casserole.
- Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and the top has browned slightly. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.