Remember when I had the best mac-n-cheese of my life?
It was everything I ever wanted in macaroni and cheese…and more. It insanely saucy. Astoundingly ooey, gooey, creamy, and cheesy. A goldmine of crispy bits of house-made pancetta was buried throughout. And a crust of buttery breadcrumbs freckled with herbs made it all crunch on top.
Bite after bite, I marveled at what a perfect specimen of mac and cheese this was. It had a complexity of flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on. This mac had depth. It had integrity. It had layers. I had to know Cochon’s secret. This Pancetta Mac-n-Cheese had to be mine.
I shot off an email, my desperation barely veiled (ok, not at all veiled), and…I scored the recipe! Naturally, what’s mine is yours. Enjoy this, my friends, a present from Cochon to me to you. It is a treasure.
I slightly adapted the recipe I received. The original called for a whopping 1½ cups of pancetta; I scaled it down to 8 oz, which ended up being about 1 cup. Also, I used panko instead of regular bread crumbs for the topping because I love the extra crunch of panko.
After reading the recipe, I could see why this was unlike any mac and cheese I’d ever had. It was full of unexpected things like white wine and cream cheese for extra flavor and creaminess.
The big secret though is the host of aromatic veggies that gets incorporated into the sauce. Crimini mushrooms, celery, leeks, shallots, garlic, and tomato paste get sautéed in pancetta renderings (yum), and pureed into an umami bomb which is the base of the cheese sauce.
And the cheese portion of this is surprising too. It’s just good parmesan and cream cheese, and heavy cream of course. Splurge on real parmigiano-reggiano, you won’t be sorry. When you mix together the cheese sauce and the macaroni, it may seem too saucy. It’s not. It will be perfection.
The addition of fresh herbs laces the crispy panko topping with a pesto-like freshness. Makes me wonder why I haven’t thought of doing this before.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoy this as much as I do