We were at Trail Estate Winery this past weekend for Maple in the County serving up some Maple Bacon Mac and Cheese. We sold out much faster than anticipated, so here’s the recipe to try it out yourself at home. We used a maple goat cheddar from Fifth Town Artisanal Cheese made with Fosterholm maple syrup, but any white cheddar will work. Choose a short pasta with deep ridges or grooves, so the sauce has something to cling on to. Rotini, fusilli, and cavatappi are all good. If you use penne or rigatoni, make sure they have ridges as some varieties are smooth. We used radiatore and I think it’s become my favourite shape!
Maple Bacon Mac and Cheese
Yields 10 8 oz. portions
- 1 L whole milk
- 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 package bacon (about 250-300 g)
- 1 tbsp flour
- 400 g white cheddar, grated
- 450 g dried pasta
- Salt to taste
- Bring milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently and making sure the bottom doesn’t burn. Add onion, bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- While the milk is simmering, dice bacon into small pieces. Cook in a large skillet over medium heat, removing the liquid fat as it renders. Save fat in a bowl or jar. Remove bacon from skillet when it starts to get crispy.
- Return bacon fat to the skillet and add flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the flour and fat into a roux (a paste used to thicken liquids into a sauce). Cook until the flour turns light brown, being careful not to let it burn.
- Strain onion, bay leaf, and clove out of the milk. Using a ladle, add a small amount of milk to the skillet with the roux. Whisk together until smooth. Continue adding milk ladle by ladle, whisking after each addition until smooth. You can start to add the milk faster and in larger portions after about half the milk has been whisked into the roux.
- Add grated cheese and stir until melted.
- Cook pasta to al dente texture (firm in the middle). Strain and return to pot. Add cooked bacon and cheese sauce to pasta and stir to combine. Season with salt and serve warm.