Smoky Bacon Mac & Cheese

Just when you thought the classic dish couldn't be improved, we add bacon.


  • 8 ounces medium shells
  • 12 ounces applewood-smoked bacon
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 pounds smoked Gouda cheese, chopped
  • 1/4 pounds pepper jack cheese, chopped
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Ketchup, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Chop the bacon and set aside. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of the fat in the pan. Heat it over medium-high heat and add the flour, whisking until combined, then cook for 1 minute. Add half the milk, whisking continuously until thickened, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the milk. Add the Gouda, pepper jack, and all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Fold in the shells and bacon, and transfer to the greased baking dish. Top with the panko, a pinch of salt, a few turns of pepper, and the reserved 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Bake until the top is browned, about 25 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and enjoy with ketchup, if desired.