Cooked bacon adds smoky flavor to the cheese and bread crumb topping in this flavorful and creamy macaroni and cheese casserole. Feel free to make it without the addition of green onions. I thought they went well with the bacon flavor, but if you’re not a fan of onions, you can leave them out. Serve this macaroni and cheese with sliced tomatoes or a tossed salad for a satisfying family meal.
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni, about 2 cups dry
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- dash garlic powder
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled
- 2 cups (8 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water following package directions. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse with hot water, and set aside.
Heat oven to 350° F (180° C/Gas 4). Lightly grease a 2 1/2-quart baking dish.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the green onions and garlic powder. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the flour and stir until well blended and smooth.
Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Set 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese aside and stir the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheese into the sauce. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheese has melted.
Combine the cheese sauce with the drained macaroni and then spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle bacon evenly over the casserole and then top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese.
Toss the bread crumbs with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.
For those of you fortunate enough to live in our area, this will be our first attempt at a restaurant review. I have been doing some work up in Canton lately and one of the greatest benefits is having a wide array of restaurants available to have lunch. Having spent 18 years in big cities, one of the things I really miss is the abundance of small boutique reasonably-priced restaurants that are much less common in rural Ohio. So when I first began working in Canton, I set out to find one of those restaurants, and struck gold.
Thatsa Wrapp is located at 600 6th St. NW near McKinley Ave. in downtown Canton. The décor is contemporary eclectic, and changes slightly to match the season. They have bar seating and eight tables, with two more on the sidewalk weather-permitting, a nice touch for a small city like Canton. The staff is very friendly and outgoing, and they tend to remember what the regulars like. They are also well trained and know the menu well, so they are very handy when it comes to recommendations. They seem to have very little turnover, as I have mostly seen the same crew since I started going there, save for a few additions as their business has increased.
One of the first things that attracted me to Thatsa Wrapp was their more healthy variety of food. I was looking for a good lunch without an overabundance of calories. Of course, as their name implies, they specialize in wraps. I have not had a bad one yet, but my personal favorite is “The Bruiser”, a blackened steak wrap with crumbled bleu cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing. Many of the wraps are made with chicken and vegetarian varieties are available. The sides that come with wraps include fresh vegetables if you want to save calories, a mildly spicy house potato salad, excellent homemade potato chips with a ranch dip if you are not counting calories, and the crème de la crème of all of their sides, smoked gouda macaroni and cheese. This was what made me decide that they were worthy of my first restaurant review, their expert use of cheese in most of their dishes. So I thought they would be a welcome addition to The Cheddarpress. They also have salads available for those who prefer a lighter lunch, but they are a pretty good size. I prefer the Asian Chicken Salad. My favorite dessert is the pumpkin cheesecake, which has a taste and presentation similar to that of a high-dollar fine dining restaurant.
Thatsa Wrapp is overall and excellent dining experience. They are also open for breakfast and offer an enticing breakfast menu, but unfortunately I don’t get to Canton early enough to try it. They have a large beer selection which is very reasonably priced. I have eaten lunch there on a regular basis, and have usually spent under $10 before tip. Of course adding beer or dessert will increase the average. After eating there regularly for a short period of time and having brought some colleagues in with me on occasion, the owner had the good graces to comp one of my lunches. This tells me that they also take good care of their customers. I would highly recommend Thatsa Wrapp, so the next time you are in downtown Canton, stop in for lunch! You can find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thatsawrapp
Most cheese connoisseurs cringe at the thought of processed cheeses. Think of Kraft singles, Laughing Cow, or Velveeta. Most of us loved such cheeses when we were kids, we always made sure Mom grabbed some at the grocery store. So why do they offend our adult palates? Labels that contain the name “cheese food” don’t make them sound any more appetizing either.
Processed cheeses are made with some natural cheeses, but usually contain other unfermented dairy products as well as chemical emulsifiers like sodium phosphate and citrate to circumvent the aging process necessary to produce most natural cheeses. Normally processed cheeses are medium firm, have a very mild flavor, and a consistently smooth texture.
Processed cheeses are often criticized for having a small range of flavors and textures and for potential health effects associated with the use of trans-fats, chemical preservatives, and artificial colorings. But like anything else, the health risks are negligible when these items are consumed in moderation, and these types of cheeses also offer many advantages.
Being cheese enthusiasts ourselves, we originally began stocking certain processed cheeses in order to satisfy our customers who requested them. But there has been a recent surge in the acceptance of many of these processed cheeses amongst the culinary community. The consistency of processed cheeses enables them to melt much more smoothly than natural cheeses, which tend to separate and pool after prolonged heating. They also have a much longer shelf life and the shortened production process lowers their cost significantly. This makes them ideal for use in cooking.
Some dishes call for only the finest natural cheeses, but many do not. It would be unusual for a chef to use a top shelf wine or liqueur to cook with. The same goes for cheese in many cases. This came to our attention when Jim Kennedy, a customer and friend of ours who also happens to be a retired chef ordered some horseradish cheese from us. He specialized in classic French cuisine and had been an apprentice to the first American-born Master Chef, Richard Schneider. So his opinion carried a lot of credibility with us. He shared his ideas for incorporating the horseradish cheese into high-end cuisine with us: “We melted it into mashed potatoes and it was superb. We melted it into Alfredo sauce and it was wonderful. We baked it into a quiche and it was sensational. We baked it with macaroni and it was incredible. In the future we intend to combine it with the smoked bacon cheese in all the above.” he said “We were afraid it would be tame for mainstream palates, but we were pleasantly surprised.”
That brought us to the most important benefit of processed cheeses: they come in a very diverse array of flavors. Besides horseradish, processed cheeses come in flavors like bacon, pepperoni, garden onion, Bermuda onion, hot pepper, super hot pepper, caraway, and even Southwestern Salsa. We also offer smoked varieties of many of these. Of course American cheese is the archetype of processed cheeses, but we also offer Sharp (aged) American, which is probably our best-selling processed cheese because few other cheese stores offer it. All of these flavors make excellent additions to simple or complex recipes. We were very impressed with the zing the Bermuda onion cheese added to our burgers!
So while most cheese aficionados will wrinkle there noses at the mere mention of processed cheeses, we have now found some very sophisticated uses for them. Of course, if the cheese is offered by itself or used as a finishing element for a fine dining recipe, natural cheeses are best. But processed cheeses can be excellent ingredients in complex recipes and add zesty variations to simple ones.
When most of us think of Macaroni and Cheese, we can not get past the image of the plastic bag of miniature elbow noodles and orange powder that we prepare for our kids. Thankfully, a generation of fans of that boxed concoction have now grown up and invented many delectable variations that are more compatible with the mature palate. Creativity knows few bounds, and the variations are countless. But after experimenting with numerous combinations, we found this to be the creamiest, most flavorful Mac and Cheese recipe yet. Save the elbow noodles and orange powder for the kids.
- 16 Ounces of penne or seashell pasta
- 2 ½ Tablespoons of Butter (we recommend Fresh Amish Butter)
- 2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of milk
- 4 Ounces of Grated Smoked Gouda cheese
- 4 Ounces of Grated Medium-Sharp Orange Cheddar cheese
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of ground white pepper
- Dash of garlic powder
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10-inch casserole dish.
- Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook for about 8-10 minutes until tender; drain.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until it is consistent. Stir in the milk, salt, pepper, and garlic. Simmer, stirring constantly until sauce is thick and smooth enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in both cheeses.
- Combine finished pasta and cheese sauce. Transfer to prepared casserole dish.
- Spread breadcrumbs over top. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until heated through.
Makes 8 servings.