Getting My Mac On

52 macs in 52 weeks

May 18, 2020
MaryAnne

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Week 11: Bacon Ranch Mac

My mom and her cousin were basically best friends, even though there was an 18-year age difference. As a result, our two families spent a lot of time together. The two of them are the reason I am an Elvis Presley superfan, along with a half dozen or more other ways their joint tastes shaped mine, including food.  One of their favorite things to say was “There’s nothing that can’t be improved with either cheese or chocolate.” (That OR is very important by the way. Try as I might, I haven’t yet found the thing that is improved by BOTH cheese and chocolate.)

As my siblings and I were growing up, we expanded that to include ranch. We would put it on pretty much everything. I used it instead of sour cream on baked potatoes and if some happened to get on the burger or steak next to the potato … well, it might have been a mistake and then again, it might not have been.  We’d dip our fries and pizza in it, my sisters put it on spaghetti … it was very versatile. Ranch had a more permanent place in the fridge than ketchup.

And of course, it goes without saying that bacon makes almost everything better as well. And when you bring them together … well, who doesn’t love bacon and ranch? Weirdos, that’s who! So if you’re not weird – and even if you are – you’ll probably like this mac.

Bacon Ranch Mac

Adapted from The Life Jolie

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 pieces of bacon, cooked until crisp; crumbled and divided
  • 6 ounces rotini noodles
  • 3½ Tbsp. butter
  • 3½ Tbsp. flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. ranch seasoning (dressing mix)
  • 1¼ cups shredded cheddar, divided
  • 1¼ cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Lay out bacon strips and bake for 20-30 minutes. Let cool. This can be done in advance.
  • Cook noodles in salted boiling water to al dente – approximately 7-8 minutes. Normally I like them tender, but they will continue cooking in sauce in the oven, so keep them on the firm side. Drain and set aside.
  • Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes
  • Pour in the milk and add the ranch seasoning and continue to cook over medium heat for approximately 7-10 minutes until it thickens somewhat, whisking frequently.
  • Add 1 cup of each of the cheeses and stir until melted.
  • Add the cooked noodles and stir until fully coated with sauce, then add six pieces of crumbled bacon and stir well
  • Pour into a 9” pie plate or 9”x9” baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese, the breadcrumbs, and the remaining bacon on top.
  • Bake at 400 for 30 minutes until the top gets crispy and the edges are bubbly.

RESULTS

It’s very tasty, but the ranch flavor, which was noticeable as the sauce was cooking, is much less so in the final dish. Next time, I would bump up the amount of seasoning by at least a teaspoon, if not more (I had exactly the amount called for, or I probably would have added more from the start.) Fortunately, I always have ranch-flavored Colonel Seasons popcorn seasoning on hand, so I can punch it up a little.

As a mac & cheese dish in general, it ranks at least 3.5 noodles, but the lack of noticeable ranch taste knocked a little of the score.

NOTES

  • As always, any medium-sized noodles will work. I was out of elbow macaroni, so I subbed in rotini.
  • Cooking the bacon on racks in the oven is SOOOO much less mess than frying.  I did have to open the door and turn on the fan, though – my oven door has a really good seal and when I opened it, clouds of smoke billowed out. 
  • When you first mix the noodles and sauce, it will seem like a LOT of sauce, but it gets absorbed while baking.  It’s not runny at all, in fact, it will probably need some additional cheese and milk when re-heating.

Posted May 17, 2020

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