ultimate macaroni cheese?

macaroni cheese is a favourite of mine. it’s something i eat only occasionally as david is not a fan and it can rarely be described as healthy which means it’s not on my “go to” list when i have a quiet night home alone. 

a friend coming over for supper gave me the perfect excuse to cook up a batch and pimp it up using a few ideas i’ve read about recently. 

adding pancetta is something i’ve never done and i liked the idea of a herby breadcrumb topping which jamie oliver touted on his recent 30 minutes meals tv show. i added garlic and sundried tomatoes to the topping mix as well, using a mix of oregano and rosemary. 

the result was wonderful and something i can see myself making again and again. given how good it is, i think this is a fitting contribution for the 4th anniversary edition of presto pasta nights, founded and hosted by the divine and delectable ruth at once upon a feast! happy birthday ruth, and thanks for all the inspiration.

macaroni cheese with ultimate topping (serves 3-4)

250g macaroni

40g butter

50g flour

700 ml milk

100g grated gruyere

100g grated strong cheddar

1 heaped teaspoon dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper


15g butter

80g pancetta (i used chopped rashers, cubes would also be good)

2-3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

a large handful of breadcrumbs

1 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon oregano leaves (i used fresh)

4-6 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

50g grated parmesan

put your pasta on to cook and start making your cheese sauce (keep an eye on the pasta and remove it when it is still al dente – it will continue cooking in the coven when you bake it so make sure it still has a bit of bite). 

melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes then add the milk gradually, stirring so there are no lumps (take the pan off the heat or reduce it to low). add the cheese, mustard and seasoning to taste. mix with the cooked pasta and place in an ovenproof dish.

to make the topping, melt the butter and add the pancetta and garlic – fry until the bacon starts to crisp. add the breadcrumbs, herbs and sundried tomatoes. remove from the heat and when cool stir in the parmesan. use this mixture as a topping for the macaroni cheese. 

to heat through, cook at 180c until the sauce is bubbling and the top brown – c20-30 minutes.