Fall Baked Mac & Cheese
Hello! I hope your week is chugging along smoothly. Today I am sharing one of my favorite comfort food recipes. Whenever it gets cool and football season is in full swing Walter will request homemade mac & cheese. If I had to pick his favorite thing that I make it would be this dish. We don’t have it often because it definitely isn’t a healthy meal, but it is a favorite indulgence is this house!
Every time I make it it varies a little, but my standard add-ins are what you see in this recipe – onion, apple, pear and bacon. You may be thinking, “yuck, why would you put fruit in mac & cheese?!”, but if you try it you will know why! The fruits pair so well with the cheese and add a natural sweetness. The onion also adds flavor and the bacon brings a crunchy texture and a salty opponent to the sweetness of the fruit.
If you are going to go wrong with this dish it is most likely going to be on step one when you are making the roux. The roux is the butter and flour mixture used to thicken the cheese sauce. Be sure not to have the heat on too high that you burn the mixture and be careful to take your time to make sure the mixture becomes thick and smooth before adding the milk and cheese.
The pasta and cheese you select for your mac & cheese can really make or break it. Large rigatoni like I used here are my favorite because I believe the pasta is just a vehicle for cheese 🙂 The more cheese per piece of pasta the better and I love when the holes in the rigatoni fill with cheese – those are the best bites! To avoid a soggy mac & cheese be sure to cook your pasta just until it is al dente, remember that it will continue to cook in the cheese while it bakes in the oven.
Regarding your cheese selection, you have many options. The only real requirement is that it is a cheese that melts easily. I chose sharp cheddar and gruyere because they make a nice combo of strong cheeses especially against the flavors of the fruit.
Fall Baked Mac & Cheese
- 5 tbs butter
- 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
- 1 cup apple, cored and chopped
- 1 cup pear, cored and chopped
- 2 tbs flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cut in small cubes
- 8 oz gruyere cheese, shredded or cup in small cubes
- 1 tbs dijon mustard
- sea salt
- 1 pound rigatoni, cooked al denti
- 1/2lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Heat 2 tbs butter over medium heat
- Add onions, sauté for 3 minutes
- Add chopped apple and pear, sauté 5-7 more minutes until soft, remove from heat, set aside
- In the same frying pan, heat 3 more tbs butter over low heat
- Slowly add the flour and whisk vigorously until roux is formed (butter and flour should form a smooth, thick mixture)
- Continuing to whisk, slowly pour the milk into the frying pan, keep whisking until milk has combined with roux and mixture is thick and smooth
- Add the cheese in batches until all the cheese has melted into the sauce
- Stir in dijon mustard
- Season with sea salt and pepper
- In a large bowl pour cheese mixture over pasta, stir
- Mix in the onion/apple/pear mixture and crumbled bacon
- Grease a large baking dish, pour mac & cheese into dish
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown
- Best served hot out of the oven
This dish is always a crowd pleaser! I hope you will give it a try!
One of my favorites!!