Easy Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese Recipe
Mac & Cheese is the dinner recipe of choice by my kids. It is the ultimate comfort food. If it were up to them, we would have a different variety every single night. They love it so much that I have learned quickly to develop healthy versions of their favorite meal. This Easy Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese Recipe takes simple ingredients that you would have on hand already and turns it into a family favorite meal.
I’m so excited to share this recipe with you guys! Not only is this mac and cheese with bacon incredibly easy and delicious, but I also love that it can be made any time of year. Often I make it as a side dish or our main meal.
You know that sound? The sound when your family makes those “yummy noises” while they eat? It is usually subconscious. Well, is my family with every bite during dinner. This recipe is a real WINNER!
Let’s Get Cooking
The cooked bacon adds a smoky flavor to the cheese and bread crumb topping (my kid’s favorite part) in this flavorful and Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese. Quite often I serve this with pickled Jalapenos for myself and son. We like it a little bit hotter.
You see, with picky kids I do not add in any specialty cheeses. In fact, our favorite type of cheese is from Aldi. For this recipe, I use Happy Farms New York Sharp Cheddar. You can use your favorite cheddar, but we just love our Aldi’s brand. And the kids can tell the difference if I have used other cheese.
First step is the pasta
Pasta, lots of pasta for this recipe. In fact, you will need one 16 oz box of your favorite shape. We use the classic elbow noodles, but I have stepped out of my comfort zone and used rotini and we love that too. So any pasta will work.
Once your pasta is done, drain and sprinkle with a little olive oil over it to prevent it from sticking.
Next, you will want to create a cheese roux. The secret to making this Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese rich & creamy is a combination of egg, butter, flour and milk. This will thicken up as it is cooked. Without this step, your mac & cheese will flop.
First you add 3/4 cup milk to small boil, beat in egg, then mix in flour until well to combine. Set Aside.
To make your roux, combine 2 cups of milk and chopped unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Mix until the butter is melted. Then add in chopped cheddar cheese. Then add in chopped cheddar cheese & parmesan cheese until melted.
Now add in your pasta, Stir until well combined. Add your egg, flour & milk mixture to your sauce pan. Cook until thickened.
In a 3-quart baking dish, add your cooked cheese and pasta mixture. Mix in your bacon and salsa. Lightly mix. Then bake at 350° for 60 minutes.
Smart Cooking Tips for Making Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese
Boiling the pasta – cook the pasta less than you normally would. I like to boil my elbow pasta for between 6 and 8 minutes. Remembering that the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, and you don’t want it to get mushy. This can be especially true if you are choosing to use gluten-free pasta.
Start with room temperature – if you can… cold liquids will often take longer to thicken than warmer ones. I like to leave my milk on the counter while I cook. I will also leave my cheeses as well. Any shortcut I can make I do it, especially with hungry kiddos around.
Chopping or shredding your cheese – it is important to get your cheese chopped or shredded. Don’t leave in big chunks as it will take a long time to melt. Cooking time will have to be increased.
How To Store Mac & Cheese Leftovers
Any leftovers need to be refrigerated and covered tightly. Mac and cheese can be stored this way for up to a week.
To reheat, stir in a little bit of milk or cream and microwave partially covered with plastic wrap. Stir frequently as it reheats.
Easy Southwest Bacon Mac & Cheese Recipe
- 1 - 16 oz package Bacon - cooked
- 1 - 16 oz jar Salsa Medium Heat (We prefer Old El Paso or Mrs. Renfros
- 1 stick of unsalted butter - chopped in chunks
- 12 oz of New York Sharp Cheddar Cheese - chopped in chunks
- 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups, plus 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 egg - beaten
- 1- 16 oz box pasta
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse with hot water, and set aside. Sprinkle with a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from clumping.
- Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Chop bacon into bite size pieces. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat egg, add milk and flour until well blended. Set aside.
- Next, make your roux, combine 1 cup milk, and chopped unsalted butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Mix until butter is melted. Then add in chopped cheddar cheese & parmesan cheese until melted.
- Now add in your pasta, Stir until well combined.
- Now add in your pasta, Stir until well combined. Add your egg, flour & milk mixture to your sauce pan. Cook until thickened.
- In a 3-quart baking dish, add your cooked cheese and pasta mixture. Mix in your bacon and salsa. Lightly mix.
- Bake at 350° for 60 minutes.
For a crunchier topping
Broil at the end of baking for approximately 2-5 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1.5 Cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 685Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 1415mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 3gSugar: 30gProtein: 27g