Go Back Email Link
+ servings
Lifting spoon of the Ultimate Bacon-Jalapeño Mac and Cheese from casserole dish
Print

Ultimate Bacon-Jalapeño Mac and Cheese

An easy comfort food dish of macaroni, crisped bacon, and spicy jalapeños, smothered and baked in a Challenge Dairy butter-based 5 cheese sauce.
Course Mains
Cuisine North American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 9"x13"x3" casserole dish

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces large elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound bacon, cut into 1/2" slices
  • 2 large jalapeños, deseeded and diced
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped

5 Cheese Mornay Sauce

  • 1 stick Danish Creamery unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups shredded)
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 4 ounces gouda cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Set your oven rack to the middle area of the oven. Have a sheet pan on hand in the event you need to catch any spills from your casserole dish.
  • Fill a 6 qt stock pot with a gallon of water and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
    When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the macaroni and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente.
    Once the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set the pasta to the side while you prepare the rest of the casserole.
  • While the pasta is working, slowly brown the bacon in a large pan over medium heat.
    Allow the bacon to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, to allow the fat to render slowly from the bacon.
  • After most of the bacon has browned, add the diced jalapeños to the pan. Cook the bacon and jalapeños together for another 3-4 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp.
    Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and jalapeños to a paper towel-lined dish to drain. Set the bacon aside.

Make the Panko-Cilantro Topping

  • Remove all but 1/4 cup of the bacon fat from the pan, reserving the remaining fat in the event you need it as you prepare the topping.
    Add the panko and red pepper flakes to the fat in the pan and toast the mixture-stirring frequently- for 2-3 minutes. The breadcrumbs should glisten slightly and shouldn't look dry. If some of the crumbs do appear to be dry, pour in the reserved bacon fat- a tablespoon at a time- until the bulk of the breadcrumbs are glistening.
  • After a few minutes, add the chopped cilantro (or parsley) to the mixture.
    Continue toasting the breadcrumbs until they are golden brown and smell slightly nutty, about 1-2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the breadcrumbs to cool while you prepare the mornay sauce.

Prepare the Mornay Sauce

  • In the same pot used to boil the macaroni, gently melt the butter over medium heat.
    Before discarding the butter wrapper, use it to lightly grease a 9"x13"x3" casserole dish.
  • Once the butter has melted, add the diced onion and minced garlic to the pot and sauté then until they are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the all-purpose flour to the melted butter and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
    Add the milk to the roux a half-cup at a time- whisking constantly- to prevent lumps. The milk will thicken quickly, be sure to continue pouring the milk into the roux in a steady stream- whisking constantly. This is now a bèchamel sauce.
    Reduce the heat to medium-low once the milk has been added to keep the sauce from boiling.
  • Once the milk has been incorporated, season the bèchamel with the spices.
    Whisk the cheeses into the bèchamel and allow the heat from the milk sauce to gently melt them. Whisk frequently to prevent the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching.

Assemble and Bake the Macaroni and Cheese

  • Fold the boiled macaroni, the bacon and jalapeño mixture, and the eggs into the mornay sauce.
    Pour the mixture into the greased casserole dish and cover tightly in aluminum foil. Bake the mac and cheese for 35 minutes.
  • After 35 minutes, carefully remove the casserole dish and uncover it.
    Spread the panko breadcrumb topping over the surface of the macaroni and cheese in an even layer.
    Return the mac and cheese to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes, or until the breadcrumb topping is light brown in appearance.
  • Allow the macaroni and cheese it to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

This recipe can be divided for smaller families.
The cheeses listed can be altered for your favorite hard and soft cheeses- see recipe in post. 
Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours. Reheat by adding a small amount of water to the macaroni and heating until warmed through in a microwave.
Freeze the macaroni and cheese in a freezer-safe dish prior to baking. When you're ready to bake, allow the casserole to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before baking as instructed.