Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta Parmesan Crust is comfort food at it’s finest. Baked in a cast iron skillet, this is everything you want in a mac and cheese. Piping hot, loaded with gooey cheese and topped with a crispy parmesan and pancetta crust.
Today is a pretty great day despite it being a Monday and all. The kids are back in school after a week long break (holla!), I’m getting a massage this morning, (double holla!) and today happens to be a celebration of carbs and cheese (triple holla?). It’s Mac and Cheese Mania!!! Monday isn’t looking so bad after all, is it? Mac and Cheese Mania is the brain child of Rachel from Rachel Cooks and Brandy from Nutmeg Nanny. Join myself and a whole slew of other food bloggers as we pay homage to the ultimate in comfort food. Never mind the fact that I can literally hear my thighs getting bigger as I type this.
While I’m all about putting a spin on a particular dish to make it your own, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to mac and cheese. What can I say? In the case of mac and cheese, I tend to think less is more. I might catch some heat here but humor me as I tell you the rules as to what makes or breaks a great mac and cheese for me. Oh yes, I have rules when it comes to mac and cheese. Go ahead and call me a diva, it wouldn’t be the first time.
-First off, mac and cheese shouldn’t skimp on the main ingredient: cheese. I’m a firm believer in “all things in moderation” so if you’re going to splurge on mac and cheese, do it right. Mac and cheese should be loaded with oozy, gooey, melty cheese. No guilt attached.
-Mac and cheese does not come from a blue box. Contrary to what my four year thinks, real mac and cheese does not take 12 minutes to prepare. Tasty, yes. Convenient, for sure. But the “cheese” in boxed mac is questionable at best so I think it’s safe to say this isn’t the real deal.
-Mac and cheese should only ever be served one way: piping hot. Like burn the roof of your mouth hot. It should be sizzling in the pan and it’s preferable if the cheese is bubbling up at the sides. Hot, hot, hot.
-While I still stand by elbow macaroni being the best noodle to use in mac and cheese, I’ll let it slide if you use penne or another small pasta. But for the love of all things holy, spaghetti isn’t a valid substation. And while I’m at it- quinoa, cauliflower and rice can not be substituted for the noodles in mac. Otherwise it’s called a casserole, people. Tasty perhaps but mac and cheese it is not.
-Lastly, mac and cheese should be served one of two ways: either with a crispy topping- something made with parmesan or the like and bread crumbs or served in a pool of melty cheese. If you’re not going to make a topping, then you better make up for it with extra sauce. Nothing is worse than dry mac and cheese. In this case, more is more. Bring on the cheesiness.
So who made me the high and mighty when it comes to mac and cheese, you ask? Well for starters my mouth. Mac and cheese isn’t something I make (or eat) that often but when I do, you better believe it had better be done right. If I’m going to splurge, I want the real deal and it better be damn good if I’m going to risk tight pants for it. I won’t feel guilty about digging in and I can promise you that I will enjoy every last bite of it. Take your low fat mac and cheese elsewhere- mountain mama doesn’t approve.
Now that I’ve told you what I want and don’t want in a mac and cheese, Can I also tell you that this Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta Parmesan Crust is everything? The roasted garlic is subtle but adds a richness that is buttery and pungent in the best way. The topping is crispy and salty thanks to the parm and pancetta and as you can see in most of my photos, ’twas the favorite part of the dish amongst my taste testers. Well, most of them that is. This is mac and cheese is loaded. It’s calorie laden and not for the calorie conscious. I say go for it, enjoy it and move on afterwards towards healthier horizons.
Big thanks to Oxo and Door to Door Organics for sponsoring Mac and Cheese Mania. If you have a favorite mac and cheese recipe you’d like to share, you can visit either Brandy’s site or Rachel’s site to link up and be entered to win some awesome prizes! You don’t have to be a blogger to enter and all winners will be chosen randomly. If you just want to skip right to the mac and cheese, see my recipe below and links to all the other bloggers participating!
- 1 head garlic, top 1/4 inch cut off
- olive oil for roasting garlic
- 8 oz pancetta, cut into bite size pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 12 oz elbow macaroni
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups 2 % milk
- 4 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
- 7 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
- In a large tinfoil packet, place bulb of garlic and drizzle with a good amount of olive oil. Cover loosely and roast in preheated oven for about an hour. Remove and let cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic cloves out, discarding the skin; set aside.
- Butter a casserole dish or cast iron pot; set aside.
- In a large saute pan, cook pancetta until crispy and all fat is rendered. Transfer pancetta to a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook macaroni just until al dente. Drain; set aside.
- In same pan, add olive oil and shallots and cook until soft and start to caramelize about 7-8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring often, 3-4 minutes. Slowly add milk and cream and stir constantly until it thickens just a bit. Stir in reserved roasted garlic and stir until it breaks up and starts to dissolve. Stir in shredded gruyere cheese and white cheddar. Turn heat to low and cook slowly until cheese is melted and sauce is thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer mac and cheese to buttered dish.
- In a small bowl, combine parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, melted butter and reserved pancetta. Sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes or until topping is crispy and golden. Serve immediately.
Other Mac and Cheese Recipes:
Jalapeno Popper Mac & Cheese by Heather’s Dish
Buffalo Cheddar Mac and Cheese by Eats Well With Others
Creamy Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese with Gouda by Sarah’s Cucina Bella
Light Sweet Potato Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe by Cookin’ Canuck
Macaroni and Cheese Fritters by Amuse Your Bouche
Skinny Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole by A Zesty Bite
Creamy Pancetta + Leek Macaroni and Cheese by Simply Scratch
Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese by Cravings of a Lunatic
Pizza Mac and Cheese by Very Culinary
Crab Mac and Cheese by Dine & Dish
Bacon & Eggs Breakfast Mac & Cheese by Sweet Remedy
Fried Mac & Cheese Balls by The Little Kitchen
Sweet Pork Macaroni and Cheese by Oh, Sweet Basil
Butternut Squash Quinoa Mac n’ Cheese Bake by Queen of Quinoa
Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese by Prevention RD
Butternut Mac and Cheese with Pretzel Crust by Healthy. Delicious.
Skinny Greek Mac and Cheese with Crunchy Pita Chip Topping by The Law Student’s Wife
Potato Skin Mac and Cheese by Eat Your Heart Out
Homestyle Baked Mac & Cheese by Pocket Change Gourmet
Bacon Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls by Miss in the Kitchen
Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese by Crunchy Creamy Sweet
Blue Cheese Bechamel Mac and Cheese by Sweetphi
Korean Mac & Cheese by Cooking with Books
Black and Blue Mac and Cheese by Fabtastic Eats
Tomato and Leek Mac and Cheese by Susie Freaking Homemaker
Healthier Mac & Cheese with Chipotle Peppers by Go Gingham
Mac and Cheese Ice Cream by Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Blue Cheese & Bacon Macaroni & Cheese by Gimme Some Oven
Poutine Mac and Cheese with Andouille Gravy by Climbing Grier Mountain
Double Smoked Chicken Mac and Cheese by Girl Carnivore
Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese with Peas and Bacon by Running to the Kitchen
Nudel Gratin by Crumbs and Chaos
Mushroom and Truffle Sea Salt White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese by Big Bear’s Wife
Roasted Poblano and Goat Cheese Mac by Daisy at Home
Creamy Cauliflower ‘n Cheese with Bacon by Barefeet in the Kitchen
Wisconsin Cheese, Brats, and Onion Macaroni and Cheese by a farmgirl’s dabbles
Spinach Queso Mac & Cheese by Bake Your Day
Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese with a Pancetta Parmesan Crust by Mountain Mama Cooks
French Onion Mac & Cheese by Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts
Healthier Macaroni and Cheese by Texanerin Baking
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese by CafeTerraBlog
Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Peppers by Cook the Story
Jack Daniels Mac and Cheese by The Slow Roasted Italian
Lobster Mac and Cheese by FoodieCrush
Green Chili 5-cheese Baked Mac and Cheese by A Southern Fairytale
Homemade Elbow Noodle Tutorial + a Recipe for Roasted Veggie Mac by Bakeaholic Mama
Salsa Verde Mac-n-Cheese (two ways) by Eat2Gather
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping by The Lemon Bowl