Warm, creamy and delicious – nothing reminds me of my childhood like a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese. A word of advice: don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re too old to enjoy mac and cheese; you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. However, one thing I will say as I’ve gotten older is that my expanding palate has led me to endeavor new types of food and drink; one of those drinks is beer, and I promise you, it is best enjoyed in moderation…and in mac and cheese.
As I boiled my bow tie pasta, I was dying to add something outside of the standard milk and cheese realm to give this recipe the kick it needed—something with a hit of flavor that didn’t minimize the intense taste of the cheddar. I opened the refrigerator to it staring me right in the face: an ice cold beer. I chose to use light beer—I think it adds just enough flavor without dismissing the recipe’s other ingredients, but I will leave the beer brand up to the chef. Everyone has a beer preference, and I won’t interfere with that. At the last minute, I decided to incorporate some bacon crumbles (because who doesn’t love bacon?). This recipe puts an adult twist on a childhood favorite. Beer-battered this, beer-battered that; why not beer-infused bacon mac and cheese? And so began my newest taste bud adventure.
Total Time: 25 minutes
2 c bowtie pasta
1 tbsp. butter
½ garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp. flour
2/3 c whole milk
2 tbsp. cream cheese
6 oz sharp yellow block cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
2 oz sharp yellow shredded cheddar cheese (about 1/3 cup, for topping)
1/3 c light beer
1 tbsp. bread crumbs
3 slices of pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
Heat 8 cups of warm water in a medium pot on medium heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small pan on very low heat. When butter is melted, add crushed garlic and let it simmer for two minutes on medium/low heat. Add cream cheese and milk, and whisk it until it creates a white mixture. Let the mixture simmer for three minutes. When water has reached a boil, pour pasta in and stir. Let pasta cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally (takes about 10-12 minutes). Add flour to mixture. Next, add beer. Let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes, then add the sharp cheddar cheese, whisking occasionally until melted. Leave the sauce over low heat and whisk occasionally until pasta is cooked. Drain pasta and pour into oven-safe container. Add cheese sauce mix and stir. Top with shredded cheddar, bacon and bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve.
Quick tip: There will likely be some cheese sauce mixture leftover (depending on how cheesy you want your macaroni) – I made some garlic bread the next day and used it as dipping sauce!