‘Ello, everyone! Full Fork Ahead, reporting for bacon duty! Because it’s all about the bacon, right? When the hubbster tried this one he said, “It’s really good – and it has bacon!” See, everyone always notices the bacon. I don’t care if it’s dusted with edible gold flakes that taste like delectable sausage, if there’s bacon, that will get the highlight in the enthusiastic approval comments. I daresay it could give Cheese’s slogan, It Makes Everything Better, a run for it’s creamy goodness money, but in this case, the two come together to give us a veritable ‘splosion of *cue lip-smacking noises*.
If you need any convincing to give this recipe a try, that fact that it all cooks in one pot, with no draining of the pasta, should do it. You’ll have to dirty up a few other things for prep work, but it’s minimal. One-pot wonders, they never cease to amaze. Well, maybe some do, but this one is a solid winner.
The recipe itself is another Pampered Chef one – got a new cookbook le squeee! – and it’s part of their quick, easy dinner collection. They estimate an optimistic 24 minutes total time to make this, but I’d have to stretch it to more like forty, even without all the picture-taking. For some reason the recipe is laid out for the cook to do prep while other parts are cooking, but you’d be much better off doing all prep work ahead of time. That includes already cooking your bacon, as well as chopping the tomatoes and leeks. Once the cooking gets going, there’s not really a lot of time to be chopping.
I’ve never made a stove-top mac and cheese from scratch, but thank goodness that recipe virginification is gone – it’s super simple and fast, making it a perfect go-to meal for the rushed work week. Ahhh, my favorite kind of recipe! You start by jut boiling the water (using the amount specified only), dumping in the pasta and cheeses and “simmer vigorously”.
By the way, can anyone tell me what’s the difference between simmering vigorously and boiling? Cuz I could not get my stove top to understand that one.
Leeks. Lots and lots of yummy, almost-but-not-quite-oniony leeks. They look like way too much, but just as spinach does, these will cook down until it looks like you end up with less than a third of what you started with. No matter – the flavor is what matters. I was pleased as all get out that their flavor, while subtle, infuses this dish just enough.
When all the liquid is absorbed and the leeks have submitted to delicate tenderness, this is what it looks like. But wait! There’s more.
If you haven’t guessed by now, this is Bacon, LEEK and Tomato Mac & Cheese. Now that we’ve got that covered, yeah, it’s time to shake things up by adding in some gorgeous chopped tomatoes and tongue-waggling bacon. Try not to shout too loud about that bacon if the neighbors are home. They’d get jealous. Give it all one final, good stir and prepare to feast.
Like mentioned above, once this actually gets to cooking, it goes fast. In no time you have a huge pot of homemade stove top mac and cheese that any sane person would be happy to devour. The only thing I’d do differently next time is to add more of the cheese. It’s sufficient to engage me fully here, but that only makes me want more cheese. Like most stove-top mac and cheese boxed varieties, the sauce is a tad on the thin side. A little more cheese will likely bulk that up nicely.
But there’s something heavenly about it anyway, and a bite of all four main ingredients with that subtle yet tasty sauce – awesome. Thanks go to Pampered Chef for another wonderful, quick and easy meal option!
BLT Mac & Cheese
from Pampered Chef’s 29 Minutes to Dinner
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: about 24 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 6 – 8
- 5 cups water
- 8 slices bacon
- 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated.
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about one eighth cup), grated
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 pound favorite pasta shapes
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 large leek (white and light green parts only)
- 3 large plum tomatoes
To start pasta mixture, bring the water to boil in a 6 to 8 quart stock pot.
Meanwhile, slice the bacon crosswise into thin strips and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat 8-10 minutes or until crisp. Remove from skillet to paper-towel lined plate.
As bacon cooks, grate the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Add pasta, cream cheese, grated cheese, salt and pepper to boiling water in stock pot. Cover and simmer vigorously 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
As pasta mixture cooks, slice leek in half lengthwise, then crosswise into half-inch slices. If the leek has dirt between the layers, swish the leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove dirt; lift them out and stir into pasta mixture. Cook, uncovered, 5-7 minutes or until pasta is cooked to desired tenderness and sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half lengthwise; remove cores and scrapes out seeds. Dice tomatoes; reserve 1/4 cup for garnish Remove stockpot from heat; stir in the remaining tomatoes and half the bacon. Spoon pasta into serving bowl and garnish with reserved tomatoes and bacon. Serve immediately.
If you like your mac and cheese a little more on the cheesy side, up the cheese quantities; I’d up the cheddar to 6, maybe even 8 ounces; the Parmesan to 3 ounces or so and maybe a couple more ounces of the cream cheese.
As noted above, if prep work is busy work for you, you might want to do all of it before starting the cooking portion. It felt like we’d have to rush to get the leeks and tomatoes chopped; prepping whatever can be prior to beginning cooking is usually best anyway.