Prima Donna Mac & Cheese with Bacon & Chard
From Julie Van Rosendaal
Use a single cheese or a combination in this creamy classic mac. I like sharp cheddar, gouda or prima donna – a Dutch cows’ milk cheese that’s similar to gouda (available at the Dutch Cash & Carry, 3815 – 16 St. SE). For a gluten-free version, use brown rice pasta and rice flour to thicken the sauce, and swap the bread crumb topping for more cheese. If you’re a mac & cheese purist, ditch the onions, bacon and/or chard altogether.
- 3/4 lb. elbow macaroni
- 6-8 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 small bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed and roughly chopped
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 3 c. milk
- 3-4 c. (about 250 g) grated aged cheddar, gouda or prima donna or a combination
- salt and pepper to taste
- Crumb topping:
- 2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into chunks
- 1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan
- 2 T. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet or medium saucepan, cook the bacon and onions until the bacon is crisp and the onions are starting to turn golden. Drain any excess fat and add the garlic and chard; sauté for a few minutes, until the chard wilts. Add the mixture to the pasta.
Return the empty pan to the heat and add the butter. When the foam subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute. Gradually whisk in about a cup of the milk, whisk until smooth, and then add the remaining milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until the mixture comes to a boil; let it boil gently for a minute or two, whisking constantly. Stir in the cheese, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta, bacon and chard and stir everything together.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread to crumbs; add the parmesan and butter and pulse to blend well. Pour the pasta mixture into an appropriately-sized baking dish (9”x13” is about right, or any casserole that will accommodate it), scatter the crumbs overtop and bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly around the edges and golden on top.