Crowd Pleasers

Bacon and Leek Mac and Cheese

Rich, nutty aged cheddar and havarti, a creamy, melting cheese, combine with bacon, leeks and fresh thyme in this classic mac and cheese recipe.

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Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced crosswise (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) Wisconsin aged cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups Wisconsin havarti cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •   Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp then chop into small pieces. Drain all but 2 tablespoons bacon drippings from pan then return to medium-low heat and add chopped leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme and bacon; remove pan from heat and set aside.

In large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and stir in flour. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, until flour mixture has darkened slightly, then whisk in half and half. Bring sauce to boil, whisking constantly, then turn heat down and let simmer, stirring, until thickened.

Stir in 1 cup cheddar and 1 1/2 cups havarti cheese. Add salt and pepper then remove sauce from heat. Stir in pasta and bacon-leek mixture. Pour pasta into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with reserved cheddar. Bake 25 minutes.

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Semi-soft and semi-hard cheese, like Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Mozzarella, should be very cold for easy grating.