This bacon cheddar baked mac and cheese is the kind of recipe you pull out for a special occasion--Thanksgiving, Christmas, parties, and super crappy days when you need the most comforting of comfort foods. It's loaded with bacon, cheddar, gouda, and a buttery crisp topping.
This bacon cheddar baked mac and cheese feeds a crowd and will delight any cheese lover. It's like your grandma's mac and cheese, but a little more grown up with the addition of bacon and gouda. It's cheesy, salty, buttery, and super tasty and comforting. It feeds a crowd, so it's the perfect holiday side dish.
- Elbow macaroni
- Milk- We used whole milk. You can use 2%, but I wouldn't try anything with less fat than that.
- Chicken broth- We cook the pasta in a combination of chicken broth and milk, which adds a lot of flavor to this recipe and forms the basis for the cheese sauce.
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Cream cheese
- Gouda cheese
- Ritz crackers- We use crushed Ritz crackers as the topping instead of breadcrumbs. They're crispy, buttery, and delicious.
- Other ingredients- butter, salt, black pepper, mustard powder, and ground cayenne
See recipe card for amounts.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Step 2: Add chicken broth, part of the milk, and pasta to a pot over medium heat. Cook until the pasta is slightly less cooked than al dente, about 10-15 minutes (pasta should still be slightly hard). Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking or the liquid from boiling over.
Step 3: Turn the heat to low and add the cream cheese, half of the cheddar, gouda, spices, remaining milk, and bacon. Cook until the cheese is melted, 2-3 minutes.
Step 4: Add the Ritz crackers to a plastic baggie and crush them into small pieces. Add the melted butter and shake the bag to coat the crackers.
Step 5: Add the macaroni mixture to the bottom of a 9"x13" casserole dish. Top with the other half of the cheddar cheese, then with the crushed Ritz crackers. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crackers are golden brown.
Frequently asked questions
I actually don't recommend it. The longer the noodles sit in the liquid, the more they'll soak up, and the drier this mac and cheese will be. For best results, make it right before you plan on eating it. If you do choose to make it ahead of time, I recommend adding more milk to the macaroni mixture before you bake it.
Any tubular pasta works well. Just keep in mind that different pasta shapes cook at different rates and soak up liquid differently. Make sure you don't let the pasta cook too long or this mac and cheese will be dry.
Any other buttery cracker would work well. You can also use Panko breadcrumbs. I wouldn't use regular breadcrumbs because they're not crispy enough for my liking, but if that's what you like, then feel free.