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Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n Cheese

I’ve recently read some articles on a growing movement to bring Home Ec back to schools.  Healthy eating and knowledge of nutrition being the core reason, self-sufficiency and cost savings also getting a mention.  And while I wholeheartedly agree, I propose another consideration for teaching teens and young adults the ‘basic’ life skills taught in a Home Economics classroom.  Creativity.

Cooking, like sewing or painting or wood-working, is a way to express yourself artistically…and a wonderful stress-reliever.  So don’t get me wrong, I do believe ‘home’ is the best place to learn these skills, but it was in my 8th grade Home Ec class where I learned to make a Basic White Sauce.  A skill just as valuable in my life today as being able to manipulate an Excel spreadsheet.

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n Cheese

Let it be in honor of creativity that we build this Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese.  It’s our LOVE of sage brown butter AND bacon that are the inspiration for this recipe. A basic white sauce, which is the start of a basic cheese sauce, begins with melted butter.  So we replaced plain butter with sage brown butter, reserving the crispy sage leaves for our incredible crumb topping.  We built our sauce from there adding a beautiful mound of cheese….lots of cheese (some of every kind in our fridge) and some cayenne and fresh black pepper for a little kick!

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n Cheese

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n Cheese

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n CheeseWe chose Pipe Rigate {rih-gah-tay} pasta for two reasons, it has big wells to hold the cheesy sauce and it was the only one at Whole Foods that we had never heard of.  We cooked it al dente, according to the package instructions, and it was the perfect choice…giving us little pockets of cheesy goodness with every bite.

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n CheeseFor the crispy crumb topping, brown some bacon, with sliced shallot, and minced jalapeno then remove to drain on paper towels.  Add panko bread crumbs back into the bacon pan and toast over low heat until they are golden brown.  Combine the crispy sage leaves from the brown butter and the bacon mixture with the toasted crumbs and reserve for the topping.

Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n CheeseTo assemble, mix the cooked pasta with a good amount of cheese sauce and pour into buttered small cast-iron skillets.  Sprinkle a good handful of crumbs over the top and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  This dish is rich and glorious and for us it was dinner with leftovers.  I hope you’ll get creative in the kitchen and add your favorite flavors and ingredients to your comfort food dishes.

The one cooking skill Shelby mastered before she headed off to school was how to make a roux and turn it into a white sauce and then into a cheese sauce.  You should see her Mac ‘n Cheese!

Mac 'n Cheese {Sage Brown Butter & Bacon}
Let it be in honor of creativity that we build this Sage Brown Butter & Bacon Mac 'n Cheese. It's our LOVE of sage brown butter AND bacon that are the inspiration for this recipe.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
  • 4 cups dry pasta, such as Pipe Rigate
For topping...
  • 4-5 slices bacon
  • 3 small shallot, thin sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
For cheese sauce...
  • 4 Tbl. butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 lb. assorted cheese, such as gruyere, cheddar, colby, Parmesan, queso fresco
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and reserve.
For topping...
  1. In a non-stick skillet, saute bacon, shallot, and jalapeno until bacon is crispy brown. Remove mixture from pan and drain on paper towel.
  2. Add panko crumbs to pan and toast over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat. Combine bacon mixture with crumbs and reserve.
For cheese sauce...
  1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, melt butter over med-low heat, add in sage leaves; cook, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown. Remove from heat. Remove sage leaves only and add them to the topping mixture.
  2. Return brown butter to heat and add flour. With a wire whisk stir mixture constantly until bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, stirring continuously until butter flour and milk are well combined. Allow sauce to come to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat to low and gradually add shredded cheese, stirring after each addition until cheese is melted and incorporated into sauce. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in cayenne and black pepper. Adjust according to taste. The sauce should not need salt, but add if necessary.
To assemble...
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta with a generous amount of sauce. Should be well coated and very cheesy. Pour mixture into buttered casserole or cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with topping mixture.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes until top is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly around edges.



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