Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Progresso Bacon Mac and Cheese

I'm all about getting excited over a meal I'm planning. Even if it's really simple. That take-out fake-out I made for my man and his friends? I was sittin' on that for days. Each day I was like "I can't wait for the guys to come over so I can make them food!" I love food.

On Monday I decided to make my favorite mac and cheese recipe for Tuesday night's dinner. Because I only had a day to be excited as opposed to four, I had to get excited a lot more often. I kept asking my roommates "Are you excited for dinner tomorrow?!" When I woke up the next morning, I reminded Aaron that mac and cheese was for dinner, twice, in the 10 minutes I see him before he leaves for work. Needless to say, I was excited. And the thing is, I know there are better mac and cheese recipes out there. This one just happens to be the first one I tried, and it's easy and delicious.

Have you seen the Progresso Recipe Starters commercial? It's the woman roasting a tomato on her counter with a little blow torch, and then another woman pops up and yells "Fire bad!"? Yeah, I hate that commercial. Hate it. BUT! I came across the product in the store and was intrigued after reading the label.

This is the recipe from a different can. I threw the label of the other can away before I could take a picture.

There are five different types of sauces, and each has its own recipe on the side. Well, it's more of a shopping list on the side. The actual recipe is under the label that you peel off.

I've tried a few, but the Creamy Three Cheese is my favorite. I follow the recipe to an extent, but I've made some adjustments with each time that I've made it. So here you go!

Progresso Bacon Mac and Cheese

1 can Progresso Recipe Starter: Creamy Three Cheese
1 lb of Large Elbow Macaroni
          *You can use whatever pasta you like, it's about 3-4 cups
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 tsp Garlic Salt
5 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese
3-4 oz Pepper Jack Cheese

First I must tell you that I tried a new way to cook bacon. I guess it's not really new, but new to me. Line a baking sheet with foil, put bacon in one layer on sheet, place in oven THEN preheat to 400 degrees, cook for 17 minutes. PERFECT bacon.

Okay, so once the bacon is done, leave the oven on. It needs to be at 400 degrees anyway. Next boil a large pot of water for your pasta. I say large because I made the mistake of using a somewhat medium saucepan, which I normally use for this recipe. HOWEVER, I made a split decision to change my recipe from 3 cups of pasta to the whole box. You need a bigger pot if you're going to do a 1 pound box of pasta. Just over estimate and you'll be fine.

While the water is boiling, shred your cheese. The original recipe calls for 6 oz of sharp cheddar and 2 oz of...cheese loaf.........................ew. As long as you have about 8 oz of whatever kind of cheese you like (you can add more for a cheesier mac), you're good to go.

Depending on how fast of a grater you are, your water could be boiling by now. If not, no worries. Just chill until the water is a-bubblin.

When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta. Cook it for 6 minutes, right to al dente because it's going to cook in the oven too.

While the pasta is going, bring the can of Progresso, milk, and garlic salt to a boil. As soon as it's boiling, remove it from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until it's melted.

The lighting in our kitchen blows
Whenever the pasta is done during the process, just drain it. If you're not done stirring the cheese in or something, no worries. Just drain the pasta and let it sit until it's ready to be put in the sauce. 

Once the pasta is drained and the cheese is melted in the sauce, it's time for bacon! You can chop it once it's out of the oven, but I like to let mine set for a bit to firm up.

As soon as I began chopping, I said to myself "This is NOT enough bacon". This is why I didn't specify the amount of bacon use should use. I cooked 7 half slices (I cut my bacon in half so it fits in my little frying pan), but whatever amount of bacon tickles your fancy is always the right amount.

Throw those tasty morsels into the cheese sauce, and then douse those noodles with that creamy goodness. Ya like that? 

Again, because I underestimated the size of my cooking vessel, I had to transfer the noodles to a large bowl before I added the sauce. 

Mix it all up! I absolutely LOVE the sound of noodles swirling around in creamy, cheesey deliciousness. Just stop and listen to that music. It's a kind of gross at the same time.

Here's where you can change up the process. You can bake this in a large casserole dish, but I received little ramekins for Christmas, and they are the only thing I use for this recipe. That way they're individualized too! Whichever you choose, spray it with cooking spray, pour the mac and cheese in, and bake for 20 minutes!

I use three because I'm cooking for three. Whatever is leftover I put in a tupperware to bake later.

You can add breadcrumbs to the top, but it's a hit or miss for me in terms of flavor. I think I'm going to leave them off the next time I make this. 

How delicious does that look?! I'm really not one for crusty noodles on top, but it's so awesome digging through that barrier to get to the molten, ooey, gooey treasure underneath! Because of the pepper jack cheese, this does have a bit of a kick, but it's more of a little baby kick not a full on kick in the face.

Something else, this dish reheats really well. I HATE reheated mac and cheese...but mainly when it came out of a blue I was really happy when these leftovers turned out almost as good as the first round.

Also, throwback! How many of you basically ran Code Red through an IV when you were a kid? And aren't these Coke glasses cute!

Well I really hope you try this recipe or any of the other Progresso Recipe Starters! They really are great. And the recipes on the can aren't the only things you can make with them! Check out their site for more ideas.

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