Love is…Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

Valentine’s day has never been a big deal to me – probably because I was single for most of them. In fact one of my worst dinner parties was a single girl valentines dinner I made for myself and my friend Amy where I totally had to trash my first attempt at a new recipe and a cockroach crawled up the side of the wall as we were eating! Even after I found and married the love of my life Valentine’s day still didn’t really do it for me.  Sure the candy and flowers are nice but my hubby gets me flowers all the time and if I want candy I am not going to wait until February 14th to eat it!  So to me it’s really just another excuse to tell the person you love how much you appreciate them.  That’s why in the Costello household it won’t be truffles or pancakes in the shape of a heart.  The quickest way to my man’s heart is bacon jalapeno mac and cheese!  This recipe builds off of my Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese and adds two of Patrick’s favorite things in the world.  The bacon adds even more smokiness and the heat of the jalapeno cuts through the rich cheese sauce – perfection.  So cancel your reservation and stay home with your honey and this mac and cheese.

Bacon Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3/4 pound shells or other short cut pasta
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 8 ounces smoked gouda, shredded

Turn your oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the 4 strips of bacon on the cookie sheet so they are not touching and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  They won’t look super crispy but they are.

Put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and set to the side.  Turn your broiler to high.  Cut the jalapeno in half and scoop out the seeds (plastic gloves are good for this).  Place both halves on a foil lined cookie sheet, skin side up and place in the broiler.  Broil for 3-4 minutes until the skin is blackened and blistering.  Place the jalapeno in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap to trap the heat and moisture.  After 5 minutes or until cook enough to touch, peel off the skin and finely dice the jalapenos.

While you are cooking the bacon and jalapeno, cook the pasta in salted water for 10 minutes or so then – whatever time is indicated on the box – then drain.  In a large sauce pot melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour and whisk both together until the flour has absorbed all of the butter (this is called a roux and the best way to thicken sauces).  Keep an eye on it and let it cook for a minute or so, whisking constantly until it darkens a bit and the raw flour flavor has been cooked out.  Really keep and eye on it or the butter will burn (like I did!  Eh, no biggie – just rinse out the pan and start again.  It’s only flour and butter).

Slowly add in the milk, whisking all the time to break up any lumps.  Raise the heat a bit and wait for the mixture to boil.  Once it has you can lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Stir it occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn and you can keep track of how thick it’s getting.  You want it to be able to coat a spoon.  Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese (best to switch to a spoon here otherwise the cheese gets stuck in the whisk).

The cheese should melt in effortlessly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the pasta and return it to medium heat for a minute or two – just enough for the pasta to take on some of the sauce.  Fold in the half the bacon and half of the jalapeno.  Serve in bowls topped with the rest of the bacon and jalapeno.

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