Jeff’s Special “Bacon and Crispy Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese”

When Jeff came to me with this idea, he had literally no intention of creating a recipe for the blog and was purely concerned about dinner that night. We had a ton of Brussels sprouts to use, three slices of bacon in a forgotten pack, pasta, and a block of Monterey jack cheese, and you would’ve thought he had just found the answer to life’s biggest question when he pronounced that this was what he wanted to make for dinner. Fortunately, it turned out amazing, so I had to share.

You start by quartering the sprouts, dousing them in oil, salt, and pepper and roasting at 425. While those crisp up, cook your pasta according to package instructions and brown up some chopped bacon until crispy. The sauce comes together with some of the rendered bacon fat, a few spoonfuls of flour, milk, and the cheese, plus some seasonings as well.

This dish is simple, comforting, and can be catered towards many different diets depending on the variety of pasta and dairy products you choose to use. Of course, nothing will ever replace the pure indulgence that is bacon fat, real pasta, real cheese, and whole milk, but I’m confident this will be just as amazing if you use a gluten free pasta variety, dairy-free milk, or vegan cheese. I can’t say anything about leaving out the bacon though, that’s a personal matter.

I hope you guys give Jeff’s Spesh a try and post all the photos so he can see how many people love his culinary endeavors- I know I do! If you do make this, don’t forget to tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

1lb short pasta, such as macaroni, casarecce, or penne

3 slices thick-cut bacon (or more if you have it, Jeff says), diced

1/2 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered

2 TBSP reserved bacon fat, or butter

2 TBSP flour

1 cup whole milk

1 cup Monterey jack (or similar) cheese, grated

Olive oil, for greasing

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Clean and halve or quarter Brussels sprouts, depending on their size, and place on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until charred and crispy, about 20 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium heat, brown bacon until just crispy.
  5. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel and remove all but 2 TBSP of bacon fat from the pan.
  6. Whisk in 2 TBSP of flour, stirring constantly until a thick roux forms. Allow the roux to brown for about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it.
  7. Stir in milk and whisk until the roux dissolves. Add cheese and stir again until it has melted and the sauce is cohesive. Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly.
  8. Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and add in half of the cooked bacon. Fold to combine.
  9. Top pasta with the crispy Brussels sprouts, additional bacon, and fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

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