Triple Smoked Mac and Cheese with Pancetta Breadcrumbs

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Smoked paprika! Smoked gouda! SMOKE! Triple smoked mac and cheese, woah it’s good.

We have become full-fledged obsessed with our USSC wood pellet smoker since we finally pulled the trigger and got one in August. It now consumes George’s and my marital conversations – what meat we are going to smoke that Sunday is a huge topic.

This mac and cheese is next level with it’s three layers of smoke, but if you don’t have a smoker, you can still bake it for a double smoked mac and cheese!

Triple Smoked Mac and Cheese with Parmesan-Pancetta Breadcrumbs

Equipment

  • Large ovenproof skillet or braiser or Dutch oven
  • Large pot for cooking pasta
  • Optional: a smoker!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni or other small tube-shaped pasta: elbow, shells, cavatappi, farfalle, etc.
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour GF: use GF all-purpose flour – not a nut flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric if you want it to be bright yellow
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese grated
  • 12 ounces smoked Gouda grated
  • ¼ cup Parmesan grated
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan grated

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cook 1 pound pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water (at least 3 tablespoons!) until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in an ovenproof pot (such as a Dutch oven!) over medium heat. Whisk in ¼ cup flour and cook until the mixture is foamy and light brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in 4 cups milk to avoid clumping.
  • Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric (if using), ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and whisk constantly until it reaches a simmer over medium heat.
  • Reduce to low heat and whisk in all of the grated cheese a handful at a time until melted. Taste, and adjust seasonings to fit your preferences! Remove pot from heat.
  • Stir in the cooked pasta until it’s completely coated. It will look like way too much sauce… don’t worry, it’s not!
  • In a nonstick skillet, cook 4 ounces pancetta over medium-high heat until lightly crispy. Stir in 1 cup breadcrumbs and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove skillet from heat, allow to cool for a couple minutes, then stir in ¼ cup Parmesan and a pinch of pepper.
  • Scatter the breadcrumbs over the mac and cheese. Place the pot of mac and cheese on a rimmed baking sheet in case it bubbles over.
  • To smoke it: Preheat the smoker to 225°F, preferably using hickory wood chips. Smoke for 1 1/2 hours.
  • To bake it: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is bubbling up around the edges.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Make it ahead! Let the mac and cheese cool completely after you put the breadcrumbs on top, then cover and refrigerate for up to 72 hours. Smoke for the same amount of time.
  • Feel free to use all cheddar, or monterey jack, pepper jack (for a spicy mac and cheese), or any other combination of hard cheeses. Cheeses like brie and goat cheese will not work here the sauce will likely break and become gritty.
  • Use any tubular noodle you like! Cavatappi is in the photo.
  • Try adding roasted broccoli, or peas!

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