This date night macaroni & cheese is not for randy new couples.
You know — the besotted. The hasn’t seen you without makeup, of course I wear cute dresses every day, and all I eat is salad cause it’s my favorite kind of couple.
No. Yalls just go sit in the corner and make out or something. This one’s for the dedicated. The long-term love birds that want to eat a lot of cheese together, drink wine, and fall asleep on the couch watching Office reruns by 9pm. True love amiright?
But don’t worry, this macaroni is anything but ordinary.
Decadent enough to mark a celebration. Easy enough that you can turn a weeknight into something special.
I personally adore it because it escapes all the annoying parts of other macaroni & cheese recipes: like why do we always bake them?? To me all that yields is an overdone pasta, dry sauce, and thick rubbery bits at the top that some people like? Explain to me why! No really, I want to know why that appeals to you.
(Don’t get me started on the canned tomato versions. Because I can’t even.)
Keeping everything stove-top is key to maintaining the creamiest of sauces. Side bonus — it takes less time and less dishes (huzzah).
But we still need texture. A crispy crackly bacon-scallion topping comes to a delicious rescue. Bacon and cheese is such an irresistible combination, but can sometimes be too heavy. The green bite of basil and scallion helps keep things lifted.
When everything comes together you’ve got a carefully balanced, slightly fancy — but evermore cozy — macaroni & cheese that’s perfect for a date night in.
So pour yourself and your honey a glass of red, nosedive into this cheesy dish of goodness, maybe make out a little, and go watch Halpert put Dwight’s stapler in jello.
Date Night Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon-Scallion Crumble
- 1/2 lb macaroni or pasta of choice elbows, shells, etc.
- 1 cup evaporated milk plus more if needed
- 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 2 ounces cream cheese cut into small cubes
- 2 TB flour
- 2 TB butter
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
For Bacon-Scallion Crumble:
- 4 pieces thick cut bacon
- 2 scallions diced
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- fresh basil for topping
Fill a large stockpot with water and salt heavily, cover and set over high heat. When it comes to a boil add pasta and cook al dente. (No mushy pasta!) Strain, set aside and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Place a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, add butter and let melt.
Whisk in flour, salt and all the spices.
Continue to stir with a rubber spatula or whisk while a roux forms.
Meanwhile fry bacon til crisp in a skillet, remove and finely chop. Set aside.
Turn off heat but keep skillet on the stove-top with a spoonful or two of bacon fat remaining for later.
Once the roux is smelling toasty and brown, whisk in evaporated milk and cream cheese.
Increase heat to medium and continue whisking til mixture is very smooth and lush, about 5 minutes.
Stir in cheddar and let it melt in. Add a bit of the pasta water til desired consistency, you want it positively creamy but not clunky. Keep warm, stirring occasionally while you finish the rest.
Rewarm the skillet with bacon fat in it.
Once it’s hot add bacon bits back into pan along with the scallions and panko. Let everything sizzle and stir until the panko is crispy and brown, just a few minutes.
Finally, dump the pasta into the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed and check seasoning.
Pour the macaroni & cheese into a pretty serving bowl, scatter the bacon crumble on top, drizzle and finish with a healthy amount of basil.