Indulge in this irresistible loaded mac and cheese, combining creamy goodness with crispy bacon, green onions, and a blend of flavorful cheeses, creating the ultimate comfort food experience.
Why You Will Love This Easy Loaded Mac and Cheese Recipe
Cheesy Delight: For all the cheese fans, this dish surpasses anything that could emerge from a store-bought box. Real cheddar cheese elevates to exceptional richness in this recipe.
Bacon Bliss: Crispy bacon infuses every morsel of this loaded macaroni and cheese with its delectable flavor. It takes an already delicious dish to even more irresistible heights.
Effortless Elegance: Crafting this homemade masterpiece is a breeze! You’ll appreciate the sheer simplicity of these step-by-step instructions.
Perfect for Any Occasion: Loaded mac and cheese is a versatile dish that suits every season and occasion. Whether it’s a cozy family dinner, potluck, or party, its rich and savory goodness brings people together.
Even Better Leftover: The flavors meld even more overnight, making this mac and cheese a fantastic leftover option. Enjoy its creamy goodness throughout the week!
Elbow Macaroni: The traditional pasta choice for mac and cheese, its shape and texture are perfect for holding onto the creamy sauce, ensuring a flavorful experience with every forkful.
Italian Sausage: This delightful addition spices things up.
Bacon: The bacon brings a smoky depth to the dish, offering a satisfying crunch and a rich flavor that beautifully contrasts the creamy elements.
Unsalted Butter: The foundation of a rich roux, butter enhances the depth and creaminess of the cheese sauce, acting as a flavor carrier for the entire dish.
Shallots: Shallots add a delicate, sweet flavor with a hint of sharpness, elevating the taste profile of the mac and cheese without overpowering it.
Garlic: A touch of garlic brings a warm, aromatic essence to the dish, complementing the cheese and bacon with its savory depth.
All-Purpose Flour: Ensures a smooth and velvety consistency, binding the sauce components together to thicken the cheese sauce.
Whole Milk: The milk is the backbone of the cheese sauce, providing the necessary creaminess and richness that makes the sauce so indulgent.
Sour Cream: Adding a tangy twist, sour cream enriches the sauce’s texture and flavor, offering a subtle complexity to the final dish.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese: The primary flavor agent, sharp cheddar imparts a bold, cheesy, comforting, and deeply satisfying taste.
Italian Breadcrumbs: These breadcrumbs add a delightful crunch and a rustic feel, creating a perfect textural contrast to the creamy mac and cheese.
Garlic Salt: This seasoning subtly enhances the dish, adding a layer of flavor that ties all the components together beautifully.
Chopped Green Onion or Parsley: Use these herbs as a garnish to add a fresh, vibrant touch to the dish, both in flavor and presentation.
Large Pot: For boiling pasta.
Whisk: Essential for preparing a smooth cheese sauce.
Sauté Pan: For cooking bacon and shallots.
Cook the pasta to al dente by following the package directions.
While your pasta is simmering away, cook the bacon in a cast-iron skillet or any oven-safe pan you choose.
Once cooked, transfer it onto a plate lined with paper towels.
Preheat your oven to a toasty 375°F (190°C).
Add the sausage.
With your spatula, break it up and cook for a few minutes.
Once thoroughly cooked, remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, melt five tablespoons of butter. Then, toss in the minced shallots, a pinch of salt, and garlic to enhance their flavor.
Sauté them for a couple of minutes until they become softened.
Stir in the all-purpose flour until the mixture has a delightful pasty consistency. What we are creating is a basic white sauce taken up a notch. This creamy sauce is the beginning of many classic dishes.
Gradually pour in whole milk while you whisk the mixture over low-medium heat. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens to creamy perfection. Whisk in the sour cream.
Then remove the skillet from the stove and fold in 3 cups of freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Keep stirring until that cheese is completely melted and becomes one with the sauce.
Let’s reunite the pasta with the sauce. Add it to the skillet and give it a good stir, ensuring every noodle is coated in that luscious cheese sauce.
Crumble the bacon and sprinkle half of the bits into the macaroni mixture.
Melt the other three tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a separate small saucepan or skillet.
Add in the breadcrumbs and a pinch of garlic salt. Stir until they turn into a golden, toasty delight.
Sprinkle the remaining bacon, cheese, and golden toasted breadcrumbs on the macaroni.
Pop your creation into the oven and let it bake for about 15 minutes.
Just before serving, add a final touch of freshness with chopped green onions or parsley. It’s time to enjoy your masterpiece!
- To prevent the cheese sauce from becoming grainy, use low heat when melting the cheese. High heat may cause the cheese to separate, resulting in a less smooth sauce.
- For a more robust flavor, try using smoked cheddar or adding a hint of mustard or Worcestershire sauce to the cheese sauce. These additions offer a nuanced taste that elevates the dish.
- To achieve a crispy and golden top, broil the mac and cheese for the last few minutes of baking. Keep a close eye on it to prevent burning while achieving that desirable crust.
For a vegetarian option, omit the bacon or substitute it with caramelized mushrooms for a smoky flavor.
Use gluten-free pasta and breadcrumbs for a gluten-free version.
Combining fontina, gruyère, and Parmesan offers a sophisticated twist for those seeking a more decadent cheese blend. These cheeses impart a velvety texture and a nutty undertone, elevating the dish to gourmet status.
When aiming for a spicy kick, use Mexican chorizo instead of sausage and cook with diced jalapeños to add a zesty punch to the mac and cheese.
Another exciting twist involves using truffle oil for an exquisite gourmet experience. The earthy and luxurious truffle aroma adds a sophisticated note to the dish, making it a standout on special occasions.
To Store: Place any leftover loaded mac and cheese in an airtight container. Refrigerate it for up to 4 days to maintain its freshness and flavor.
To Reheat: When ready to enjoy again, reheat gently in the microwave or stovetop. Add a splash of chicken stock or water while reheating to keep it from drying out. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating and creamy consistency.
To Freeze: If you want to save some for the future, transfer your mac and cheese to an airtight freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. To enjoy later, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating, following the instructions above.
For Long-term Meal Planning
Freezing portions of the mac and cheese is an excellent strategy. This dish can last up to two months when stored correctly in a freezer-safe container. Thawing it in the refrigerator overnight ensures a gradual and even melt, preserving the dish’s original texture and taste.
For Make-Ahead Meals
Consider assembling the mac and cheese in individual ramekins. These small containers allow for convenient portioning and quick reheating when needed, ensuring freshness and minimizing waste.
Convenient Individual Servings
Portioning leftovers into muffin tins and freezing them creates convenient single servings that are easily reheated for quick lunches or solo indulgences. This method also minimizes thawing time and preserves the dish’s integrity.
What to Serve/ Pair With Your Mac and Cheese
Most people eat this loaded mac and cheese for lunch or dinner. Pairing this indulgent dish with a fresh green salad or roasted vegetables offers a delightful contrast. Similar to lasagna, this one-pot wonder brings great satisfaction. End your dinner with a slice of easy no bake chocolate pie or flan.
Loaded Mac and Cheese Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use evaporated milk instead of milk?
You can indeed substitute evaporated milk for regular milk in mac and cheese recipes. Evaporated milk adds a creaminess and richness to the dish, making it a suitable alternative for those seeking a slightly different texture and flavor.
What type of pasta should I use?
Regarding mac and cheese, the classic choice is elbow macaroni. Its shape is perfect for trapping the cheesy sauce. However, you can get creative and use other pasta shapes like shells, cavatappi, or penne for a unique twist on this beloved dish.
What can I add to mac and cheese to make it better?
Elevate your mac and cheese game by exploring various additions and toppings to enhance flavor and texture. Here are some delicious options to consider: diced ham, shredded pork, grilled chicken, chopped bacon, chopped hot dog, ground beef, shrimp, and lobster/crab meat.
These ingredients can take your mac and cheese from great to gourmet, providing a range of flavors and textures to suit your taste preferences.
What are good toppings for mac and cheese?
Crispy bacon, green onions, panko breadcrumbs, sour cream, or hot sauce – they all bring a flavorful punch!
This loaded mac and cheese recipe is full of creamy and cheesy goodness, topped with crispy bacon and green onions. You can enjoy it right out of the oven or later as leftovers. It’s a recipe you’ll love and want to make repeatedly.
Loaded Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound dry elbow macaroni 1 box
- 10 slices bacon
- 2 links Italian Sausage
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter divided 1 stick
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
- 3¼ cups whole milk at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream at room temperature
- 4-5 cups of freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese divided into two
- 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon of garlic salt
- Chopped green onion and/or parsley optional
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, fry the bacon in a large cast-iron (or other oven-safe) skillet until crispy.
- Remove the bacon and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Wipe out the pan.
- Add the sausage.
- With your spatula, break it up and cook for a few minutes.
- Once cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the shallots along with a sprinkle of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until softened. Next, add in the garlic.
- Stir in the flour until your mixture becomes a pasty roux.
- Over low-medium heat, gradually pour in the milk as you whisk the mixture. Continue to whisk until the mixture has significantly thickened.
- Now whisk in the sour cream, being sure to completely blend.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Next, add 3 cups of cheddar cheese. Stir the mixture until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated.
- Add the elbow pasta to the skillet. Stir to coat the pasta well.
- Crumble the bacon and stir half of the crumbles into the macaroni.
- Using a skillet or small saucepan, melt the remaining three tablespoons of butter on medium heat.
- Now add your Italian breadcrumbs and garlic salt. Be sure to stir until toasted and golden brown.
- For finishing touches, top the elbow macaroni with the remaining cheese and bacon as well as the Italian breadcrumbs.
- Bake your masterpiece for 15 minutes. You will see that the mixture is bubbly and crispy on its edges.
- Garnish with chopped green onion or parsley before serving.
*Nutritional information is a calculated guesstimate. Please note that this can change with different brands and modifications you may make to the recipe. For the most accurate information, use a nutritional calculator with the exact brands and measurements you’re using with each recipe.