I first saw this dish on the show Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. It was a throw down to Macaroni and Cheese, and this was Bobby Flay's twist on the old classic. I love Pasta Carbonara. I have my own version of Carbonara that I make often when I want to cook a quick pasta. But since my daughter loves Mac & Cheese and I love Carbonara, this was a "must-make" recipe for me.
The original recipe called for all kinds of expensive cheeses such as Fontina and Asiago. Not readily accessible to me right now. I do, however, have a huge bag of mixed shredded cheese I bought from Costco that I always have on hand. The recipe also called for pancetta, but I used regular bacon instead and it came out awesome. Its a great way to spruce up regular macaroni and cheese.
butter to grease baking dish
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4-5 slices of bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
5 cups warm milk
4 large egg yolks, slightly whisked
1 tsp. dry thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 cups of shredded cheese (plus more for topping)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
salt and pepper
1 lb. small pasta shells (such as elbow macaroni), cooked just to al dente
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1) Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Butter bottom and sides of a 10 x 10 baking dish. Set aside.
2) Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden brown on all sides. Remove from oil and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain oil.
3) Add garlic to oil and cook just before it turns golden brown. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in warm milk and raise heat to high, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
4) Temper eggs by adding about 1/4 cup of the milk mixture with the eggs and whisk. Whisk egg mixture into remaining milk mixture. Continue whisking for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in thyme leaves, cayenne and cheeses until melted. Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add more warm milk, 1/4 cup at a time.
5) In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, cheese sauce, cooked bacon, and parsley. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Top with a mixture of cheeses. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until mixture is heated through and the top is a light golden brown.