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1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1 lb pasta (we used cellentani)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
2 tsp dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
6 cups grated cheese (we used gruyere here)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350˚F and butter a 2 quart baking dish. Set up a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, just until bright green and slightly tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the ice water to stop cooking. Drain asparagus and set aside. Bring the same pot of water back to a boil, then add pasta and cook to al dente.
Meanwhile, crisp the bacon in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat. Once crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain bacon fat from skillet, then make roux by melting 4 tbsp of the butter in the same pan over medium low heat. When butter is melted, add flour and cook, whisking for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Slowly whisk in milk and mix until it is all incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly,until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and dijon. Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until melted. Add pasta, asparagus and bacon fold until well combined.
Add the macaroni and cheese to the buttered baking dish. Melt remaining butter and toss with the parmesan cheese and both breadcrumbs. Season with a pinch of salt. Add breadcrumb mixture to the top of the mac and cheese and bake for about 45 mins or until golden brown and bubbly.