This creamy and delicious baked mac and cheese is made with a blend of Gruyère and fontina cheeses, bits of crisp bacon and lightly caramelized onion.
Topped with a layer of toasty garlic crumbs for extra flavor and a bit of crunch, it makes a richly satisfying main course or fabulous accompaniment for simple entrées like roast pork or chicken.
Bacon and Caramelized Onion Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
- 1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3-3/4 cups whole milk, warmed
- 8 ounces fontina cheese, coarsely grated
- 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a 2-1/2 to 3 quart oblong baking dish.
- Fry the bacon until crisp, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Reserve about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan and discard the rest.
- Heat the bacon fat over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cover the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring 3 or 4 times during the process.
- Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are lightly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, add the reserved bacon and combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Sprinkle in the flour, whisk until well combined and continue cooking until the mixture develops a pale golden color, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth and well blended. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, 7 to 8 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Note: Be sure to scrape down the sides of the pan with a spatula once or twice to ensure there are no lumps in the sauce.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese a handful at a time and stir until completely melted. Add the macaroni and combine well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then mix in the reserved bacon and onions.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.
- While the macaroni bakes, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat and add the garlic. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute, then add the breadcrumbs and toss to combine.
- Continue cooking, stirring often, until the crumbs are lightly toasted, 3 minutes longer.
- Remove the macaroni from the oven, top with the crumb mixture, then return to the oven for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.
- Allow the casserole to rest for 10 minutes before serving.