Is there any better comfort food than some creamy, crispy oven mac & cheese? After a long two weeks at work with the massive layoffs and ensuing frustration and craziness, I really needed some comfort food but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted. I started clicking through Pinterest and a saw some tasty looking macaroni and cheese dishes. My mom has always made a great one but I can never seem to recreate her awesome dishes, probably because she just wings it and doesn't follow a recipe. I figured I should try and wing it as well and make a dish that my family will love for years to come.
I used about 100 different kinds of cheeses and some tasty applewood smoked bacon. I never used to like bacon. Then when I was pregnant with my first baby, I had the strongest craving for it. I thought I was crazy since I spent my entire life being disgusted by bacon and all of a sudden I wanted it more than the 7-11 nachos I was chowing down. I finally gave in and tired it and I haven't looked back. My favorite kind is the Farmland Applewood Smoked Bacon. So I thought the bacon would just add to the amazingness of the mac 'n cheese. So give it a try and see what you think!
1 - 13.5 oz. Package Shell Pasta
10 Pieces Bacon (I prefer applewood smoked)
3/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Ranch Dressing Mix
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 - 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup + 2 TBSP Heavy Cream
1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Salted Butter
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place bacon on sheet. Bake for 15 minutes (you can drain grease after about 8 minutes to make bacon crispier) or until bacon is as crisp as you prefer. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, chop bacon into small pieces. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, ranch dressing mix, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Make sure all bread crumbs are coated in olive oil. Add 1/3 of bacon bits to mixture and combine. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, over med-high heat, melt butter and cream cheese. Add sour cream and heavy cream - whisk to combine. Once heavy cream is close to boiling, add the pepper jack, colby jack, and mozzarella cheeses. Once the cheeses have melted, add remaining bacon bits. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour cheese sauce over noodles and stir to combine.
- Pour noodles and sauce into a greased 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Top with bread crumb mixture.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. You can broil for 2-3 minute to brown the bread crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.