By overwhelming demand, this Jalapeno Bacon Mac and Cheese recipe makes the top of the list of items to make on a routine basis as well as to bring to a party.
I’m all about making mac and cheese from scratch, I have a creamy mac and cheese recipe that I love,
and so does everyone who eats it…
but often they want a kicked up version and this is the version they all ask for.
It’s slightly smokey, from the bacon…
It’s slightly spicy, from the jalapenos… (but even nonspicy food easter love it, and the spice can be adjusted, just cook the jalapenos more until they are soft and more mellow in flavor or remove seeds)
No matter what size “party” you have, this is a good idea.
Now, this could be a party for 2, you’ll have food for the whole week.
It could be a party where everyone brings a side dish or a family meal, holiday dinner, BBQ, or your favorite gathering.
Leftovers reheat well, making this a recipe easy to enjoy again and again!
Full of flavor with onions and jalapenos, and the smokey bacon flavor and topped with cilantro…
this is the dish that dreams are made of.
There area few things I do to ensure it’s super delicious. I use cooked crumbled bacon, making it easy… but be sure to heat it up so it’s crispy, the oil that releases will flavor the dish in a rich and delicious way.
The onions and jalapeno along with some garlic give this dish a complex flavor that will have your taste buds wanting more.
How I prep this recipe ahead of time to make it in a minute the day of serving.
I boil my pasta, drain, and rinse it with cold water. Place it in a plastic bag or container and put it in the refrigerator. (can be done one to two days ahead)
I then cut the onion, jalapenos, and cilantro and place them in bags in the refrigerator as well. I most often use this minced garlic, but sometimes mince it fresh just as I’m about to cook it.
Then when I’m ready to put it all together, I saute the onions, jalapeno, and garlic, with butter, then add in the flour and stir it then add the milk and cheese. Then add in the pasta and heat it thoroughly.
Pasta Cooking Tips
Be sure to use enough water to cook pasta, it allows the pasta to cook freely and not stick, be sure to stir it as it cooks, that will ensure the pasta won’t stick together, or to the bottom of the pot. Be sure to add salt to the water when cooking the pasta.
Use a colander to drain the pasta so excess water in between the noodles can drain out, shake the colander gently, and then while the pasta is draining, make the sauce, then place the pasta into the cheese sauce in the pot and stir to combine so the sauce coats all the pasta. Do not rinse the pasta if using it immediately, do not oil the pasta as the sauce won’t stick. Only rinse the pasta if you’re storing it or using it later, it’ll dry a bit as it’s stored, but watery pasta won’t absorb the cheese sauce if you’re making the dish right away. I have this style colander but have my eye on these.
The minimum size pot I’d suggest for 1 lb of pasta in about a 3-quart pot, 2 lbs of pasta in about a 5.5- 6 quart pot, 3 lbs of pasta in at least an 8 qt pot(I use a 9-quart pot). I’ve linked to the pots I use.
I love Le Creuset dutch ovens, they hold the heat, perfect for serving the food going back for seconds, and have it be just as hot as the first serving. The bottoms of the pot are easy to clean up, they don’t burn or stain like other enamel pots I’ve used. I use barkeepers friend if there is any browning that needs to be cleaned.
For years I used Revere Ware Copper Bottom Pots but changed over a few years ago.
I make the cheese sauce most often in the bottom of the pot I’ve boiled the pasta in, sometimes I cook it in a skillet if I want to have it ready when the pasta is done. If you want to use a skillet be sure it can hold 3 cups of liquid.
Cooking pasta ahead of time
I once had someone say to me, do you really cook the pasta ahead of time, then it’s not fresh…
let’s look at this and pick it apart:
Pasta is made from flour and egg, and boxes of pasta are then dried. So the fast is it’s not “fresh”, then we buy it and cook it (boil it in water, again not fresh, ok maybe freshly boiled… then I rinsed and stored like I would a cold pasta salad and as well all know pasta lasts 5 days in the fridge.
And my key tip to keep pasta dishes fresh is to prevent the moisture from collecting in the dish in the refrigerator, place a paper towel in the container to absorb moisture when the fridge door gets opened and closed, and causes the fridge to warm and cool over and over. So is the pasta “fresh”, in my opinion, pasta is not fresh unless you just make it.
And I pre-make pasta all the time to save time, energy, and dishwashing on days I know it’s best to prep ahead. It’s a huge time saver and it tastes great, which is the point, pasta does not taste different if it’s cooked a day ahead. In fact, it might be better! Like lasagna, pasta salad, and midnight snacks, pasta tastes PRETTY GOOD when it’s made ahead of time. (that is my argument/discussion on cooking pasta ahead of time)
I use this style container to store the pasta in, I find them so convenient for pasta, cookies, thanksgiving, large meal leftover, and bringing food to others. I have six of them and use them all the time. They are great for pizza leftovers also.
How to put the recipe all together (assembly)
make the cheese sauce, choosing the type of cheese is up to you, often I use pre shredded cheese but you can grate your cheese if you prefer.
Make the cheese sauce, by heating the butter, onion, jalapeno.
Stir and then add the flour and then slowly pour in the milk to make the sauce.
And then add in the cheese and bacon and stir to combine.
Having everything ready and sliced and cut will help the steps go smoothly, easily, and quickly, get them ready while the pasta is cooking.
Stir the pasta into the sauce.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then pour it into your serving dish.
Add Topping the dish with additional ingredients it makes it more appealing and tells everyone what’s inside. Shredded cheese, cooked crispy bacon, cilantro, and sliced jalapenos.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni (or other pasta variety)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 jalapeno, diced (I use the seeds and all) sometimes I use two jalapenos
- ½ cup cooked crumbled bacon, sometimes I use one cup
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2- 2½ cups grated cheddar cheese (a little more than ½ pound) I start with 2 cups then add more if I feel it's not cheesy enough at the end of cooking, sometimes I top the dish with some shredded cheese with the other toppings.
- ⅓ cup cooked crumbled bacon, heated until crispy
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- ¼ cup cheddar cheese
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Drain pasta.
- Add butter to pot with onion and jalapeno and stir to combine and cook for 1 minute, onion will release flavor as will the jalapeno (if you want a more mild flavor cook the jalapeno longer).
- Add the flour to the pot, and whisk together.
- Slowly pour in the milk as you stir to combine everything so the sauce is thick. Do not just pour the milk in, hte milk needs to be poured in slowly so the sauce remains thick.
- Add in the cheese and as it's heating stir well.
- Add the drained pasta.
- Add in the bacon and stir to be sure everyone is heated through and combined.
- Pour the pasta into the serving dish.
- Top the mac and cheese with additional cheese if desired, bacon, cilantro, and jalapeno slices.
- This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled for more servings.