Pancetta & Pecorino Macaroni Cheese

I spend a lot of my time cooking for groups of people, and this is now one of my go to meals. It is easy to make in large batches, and makes for fantastic leftovers as it only gets better with age. This Macaroni Cheese is a more sophisticated version of the old family favourite, and is sure to be a crowd favourite. 

Serves: 8
Cooking Time: Around 1 hour, or just a little less to get it on the table 


Ingredients

+ 400 g macaroni
+ 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
+ 300 g lean, mild pancetta (or streaky bacon if you can’t make it to a deli) skin removed and cut into small 1 cm cubes
+ A handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped
+ 1 bundle of fresh asparagus, chopped into 2-3 cm sections

+ large handful of fresh basil leaves (or whatever herb you have in the garden), roughly chopped
+ 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
+ 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino, plus extra to serve

Béchamel Sauce
+ 100 g butter
+ 2/3 cup plain flour
+ 3 cups milk
+ 1/4 cup white wine
+ 1 cup pure cooking cream
+ 1 cup grated pecorino *
+ 1 cup grated parmesan *
* If you don’t have enough, you can substitute in a small amount of tasty cheese!

Method

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Put a large saucepan of water on to bring to a boil.

To prepare the béchamel sauce, place a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt before adding the flour. Using a balloon whisk, beat together until a thick paste forms. Reduce the heat to low and cook paste for 1-2 minutes before adding the milk in stages, continuing to beat thoroughly as you go.

Continue to beat until the milk is all used up and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Add the wine and cream and stir to combine. If the sauce thickens up too much, just add a little more milk to thin it out.

Remove from the heat and add the pecorino and parmesan along with a good seasoning of freshly ground black pepper and a small pinch of salt. Cover to keep warm, and place to the side.

Add a touch of salt to your boiling water, before adding the macaroni and cooking until almost al dente. Drain and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with a little freshly ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, place a large frypan over medium heat, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook for 10-12 minutes, tossing often, until golden and crispy and cooked through. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel. Into the oily pan, add the mushrooms and asparagus. Cook, tossing often, until just cooked through.

In a large bowl, place in first the macaroni. Then add the béchamel sauce along with the cooked pancetta, mushroom, asparagus and chopped basil. Combine well, and pour the contents into a large baking dish.

Combine the remaining breadcrumbs and pecorino singled out in the first ingredients list in a bowl, then scatter over the top of the pasta. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Serve with extra grated pecorino.

Original recipe from What Katie Ate.

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