Thought nothing could beat regular macaroni cheese? What about creamy, cheesy macaroni with salty, smoky bacon and sweet, buttery leeks, all topped with the crunchiest, crispest panko breadcrumb topping and extra cheese? Have I convinced you yet? Then you are going to love my Leek and Bacon Macaroni Cheese!
I am so excited about this recipe…because, let’s face it, it’s hard to better a classic, but with this new recipe I think I’ve just gone and done it!! Macaroni cheese (or mac and cheese as my US friends would say) has been one of the staples in my life since, maybe forever…it’s something my mum always made as an easy weeknight dinner for us as kids and something I’ve made countless times since…it’s one of my easy fallback dinner options for when it’s been a busy day and the cupboard is bare.
It’s so easy to throw together and shove in the oven and so, so delicious…especially if you add a little Dijon mustard to the cheese sauce 🙂
I have a couple of versions on my blog…my Super Simple Macaroni Cheese which is a pretty classic mac and cheese recipe with a couple of neat little twists – it was actually the second recipe I ever shared on this blog (do go and have a laugh at the terrible photos!) and then another version involving butternut squash in the sauce that I imaginatively called Easy Butternut Squash Macaroni Cheese, which is really yummy too and just that teensy bit healthier.
But to be honest, I never thought I would better my classic macaroni cheese…until I came up with this version. It’s insane… leeks and bacon is a bit of an awesome combo anyway, but when added to this gorgeous creamy, cheesy macaroni, it totally takes it up a notch…so far, so good, but then I threw panko breadcrumbs and extra cheese all over the top…and whoa – now you are talking. It’s just too good!!
Honestly, I ate this until I was full and then I carried on eating and then I ate a bit more whilst I was doing the washing up…and then I was sad because I had that very uncomfortable feeling in my stomach which indicates that I have eaten waaaay too much. I literally had to throw the rest in the bin to stop myself eating any more!
Seriously, if you are on a diet or attempting any kind of weight loss at the moment…DO NOT MAKE THIS – it is properly ADDICTIVE!!!
So yeah, probably not the healthiest recipe on Easy Peasy Foodie, but definitely one of the yummiest…#sorrynotsorry.
This macaroni cheese recipe also features a couple of neat tricks, one to cut down on the washing up and the other to ensure making the cheese sauce is really easy peasy (and no lumps!).
It would be quite easy to create a washing up nightmare with this recipe…one pan for the pasta, one for the cheese sauce, one for the bacon, maybe even another one for the leeks and then put it all together in an oven dish…a total of 5 pans to wash up – NO THANK YOU! To cut down on the washing up, I have cooked the bacon and the leeks in the same pan as the cheese sauce, and because I used my trusty cast iron pot, all I needed to do was stir in the pasta, sprinkle over the panko topping and shove it in the oven…thereby using only 2 pans – whoop, whoop! If you don’t have a cast iron pot, you can do the same thing with an ovenproof saucepan.
And to make the cheese sauce really easy to do, I’ve added the flour in to the pan with the bacon and leeks, stirred it around to evenly distribute and then added the milk. No idea why this works so well (I’m sure there’s some clever science behind this – do please enlighten me if you know!), but I always find that if you have some onions/leeks/carrots/bacon etc. in the pan before you add the flour, it’s so much easier to make a lovely smooth white/cheese sauce with no nasty lumps.
To go with this delicious Leek and Bacon Macaroni Cheese, all you need is a simple side salad – I went for a bag of mixed baby leaves, dressed with my current absolute favourite Honey, Mustard and Cider Vinegar Dressing. Or alternatively, if you are a 6 year old boy, I am reliably informed you need to serve this, or indeed any version of macaroni and cheese with a large portion of baked beans (my little boy cried last time I made macaroni cheese and didn’t make any baked beans to go with it!).
For me the best wine to go with this incarnation of macaroni cheese is a lovely crisp unoaked Chardonnay, which cuts beautifully through the richness of the cheese, bacon and butter in this recipe, but a soft red, such as Grenache or Merlot would work well here too.
- 250g macaroni (NOT quick cook)
- 180g lardons or diced smoked bacon
- 40g butter
- 1 large leek (roughly 200g), sliced
- 20g plain flour
- 500ml milk
- Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated
- 50g panko breadcrumbs
- 100g salad leaves (to serve)
- 1 quantity Honey, Mustard and Cider Vinegar dressing (to serve)
- Pre heat your oven to 200C.
- Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes less than you would normally do it. This is important or your macaroni will end up soggy and stodgy. Drain reserving a little of the cooking water.
- Heat a wide oven proof saucepan or cast iron casserole dish over a high heat and add the lardons (or diced bacon). Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until starting to brown.
- Turn down the heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted add the leeks and fry with the lid on for about 3 minutes, until the leeks are nicely softened.
- Sprinkle over the plain flour and stir well, then add the milk very slowly, stirring constantly until thickened. When the sauce is roughly the thickness of double (heavy) cream add in a few twists of black pepper, the Dijon mustard and 50g of the cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and then turn the heat off.
- In a small bowl place the panko breadcrumbs and the remaining 50g of the cheese. Mix together to make the topping.
- Tip the macaroni into the cheese sauce, together with about a tablespoon of the cooking water, and stir to combine. Scatter the panko topping evenly over the top and place in your preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
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