December 5, 2011
There are certain simple pleasures in life that make me feel good. Like walking hand in hand with my son, the feel of his trusting grip against my fingers, and the methodical thud, thud, thud of his 4 year old gait, as his too-big rain boots scrape against the pavement.
This was a moment that captured me today, as we made a quick trip to the store to get the ingredients for this dish. Dark skies and rainy weather are the perfect combination to enjoy another simple pleasure – comfort food. Macaroni and cheese to be exact.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board hosts a Macaroni & Cheese Blog called 30 Days 30 Ways with Macaroni & Cheese, and this year I contributed a recipe for their new project. Every three weeks, they post a new mac & cheese recipe from a featured food blogger on their site. There were several themes to choose from, and I decided to go with the Decadent Holiday Recipe.
My mind came up with way too many possibilities, and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one concept. I also tried to keep it simple, yet still delicious. I decided on a three cheese recipe that incorporates Gouda and Fontina cheese, with a crispy balsamic glazed pancetta topping – and a sprinkling of smoked Gouda for good measure.
While this may not be the fanciest mac and cheese you’ve tried, it definitely qualifies as a delicious decadent holiday dish for me! To see my featured recipe, head on over to 30 Days 30 Ways with Macaroni & Cheese, and you'll see many more delicious recipes too.
Three Cheese Balsamic Pancetta Mac & Cheese
Serves 6-8 Printable Recipe
2 packages of thinly sliced pancetta ( 3 ounces each)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, separated
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 cup half and half, warmed
6 ounces gouda cheese, shredded
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
2 ounces smoked gouda cheese, shredded
10 ounces cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. Roll up the pancetta slices and slice into strips with a sharp knife. In a large pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta strips until just starting to crisp, about 3-4 minutes, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar over the pancetta and stir. Allow the cooked pancetta to drain on a paper towel and set aside.
In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, whisk in the 4 tablespoons of flour. Continue to cook and whisk the flour for about 30 seconds. Add the rosemary and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the warmed milk and half and half, continue to whisk continuously so that there are no lumps. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer, stirring constantly.
While waiting for the sauce to simmer, liberally salt the pot of boiling water. Add the pasta to the water and cook for about a minute less than package directions.
When the sauce has come to a simmer, stir in the 6 ounces of gouda, and the fontina cheese until melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in about 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, or more if you want a more pronounced flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the cooked pasta and stir into the cheese sauce until combined.
Pour the macaroni mixture into a baking dish, and sprinkle with half of the smoked gouda. Top with the cooked pancetta and then the remaining smoked gouda.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and the cheese is bubbly. If the pancetta starts to get too dark, cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Serve hot.