Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale

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Healthy, comforting, and utterly delicious!  Say hello to my Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale.  It’s a traditional comfort food made healthy with a homemade Italian Chicken sausage flavored with garlic and fennel.  Hearty shell pasta perfectly cups the creamy parmesan cheesy sauce for every bite.  Finally, Kale… In this recipe, the kale is cooked in the flavorful sauce so it wilts down and melds into the backdrop so perfectly.  Kale brings texture and healthy veg-balance.  Parmesan on top is the salty and nutty finish!

Homemade Italian Sausage – with Ground Chicken!

Have you ever made your own Italian Sausage? It’s incredibly easy and right at your fingertips as long as you have a few simple ingredients. My version for this recipe uses ground chicken, which is a leaner meat than pork or beef.  It works really great for Italian Sausage because it sticks together nicely.

To make this yourself, all you need is fresh minced garlic, Italian parsley, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper!  You can make a couple pounds of this ahead, then portion it out and freeze it for later.

Here a few recipes to use it in!

Fork with bite of shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale that's also on a plate. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Nothing special for this one! Just a large pot to cook the pasta in and a large skillet/frying pan for cooking the sausage, then the sauce. I use my absolute favorite 12″ Ceramic Pan, which is great because food really does slide right off with minimal oil and I don’t have to worry about food sticking and burning.  It comes with a glass lid, which is perfect for watching your dinner cook!

Oh, and mincing garlic is made super easy with a Garlic Press.

PREP-AHEAD FOR YOUR PASTA WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (See the recipe below for more details) 

For this recipe, you really want to eat it right after you mix it all together when the sauce is still creamy.  But, you can get everything ready to go ahead so all you do is cook it and in 30 minutes, you have dinner!

Dice the onion and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to cook. Clean the kale and dry it in a clean towel.  Then rough chop it into bite-size pieces.  Store the kale in the fridge with a cool damp towel on top until ready to cook.

Knife dicing onion for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Cleaned & chopped kale for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

You can also mix the Italian Sausage ahead of time as well.  Mince the garlic, chop the parsley, and measure out the fennel seed, salt, and pepper.  Mix all of these ingredients with the ground turkey or chicken.  Store in a container in the fridge until ready to cook.Italian Sausage ingredients in bowl for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Raw Italian Sausage mixed in bowl for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Note: If you prefer to buy premade Italian Sausage, look for the bulk.  If all you can find is Italian Sausage Links in casings, make sure it is raw.  Then cut the casing and squeeze the meat mixture out into the pan. 

COOK YOUR PASTA WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND KALE

To start, boil your pasta according to package instructions.  Before draining the pasta, be sure to save a cup of the cooking pasta water to use in the sauce.

To a preheated large pan/skillet, add a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the Italian Sausage, breaking it up with a spatula or spoon into small bite-size pieces. Let it sit and sear for about 4-5 minutes. Then stir so that the other sides sear. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until no pieces are pink and look fully cooked through. Remove to a plate.Raw Italian Sausage in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Italian Sausage cooking in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Cooked Italian Sausage on plate for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Add another tsp of Olive Oil if needed, then add the onions and garlic. Stir so they do not burn. Cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the kale, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.Cooking kale in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

While the kale begins to cook, make the slurry by adding the 2 tbsp of cornstarch to the milk and stirring until dissolved.Cornstarch & milk slurry for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Add the chicken broth and the milk slurry to the pan. As the sauce heats up, it will start to thicken, so be sure to stir every couple minutes as this happens to prevent clumping. Once the liquid has thickened a little, about 4-5 minutes (note, it will not be very thick, just a little bit thicker than it was), add the sausage back to the pan.

Kale sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Thickened Kale sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Italian Sausage being added to kale sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce.  

Test the Kale, if it needs to cook more, cover and let cook for another few minutes. If the Kale is cooked to your liking, add the cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan Cheese. Mix to combine. If needed, you can add more of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.Shell pasta added to sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Mixing parmesan with pasta and Italian Sausage in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale in a pan. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Serve the pasta garnishing with more Parmesan Cheese.

ENJOY! 😍 Carrie

Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale on a plate. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale

Healthy, comforting, utterly delicious - that's today's Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale.  The sauce is loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel.  Kale is cooked in the flavorful sauce so it wilts down and melds into the backdrop so perfectly. Hearty shell pasta perfectly holds the creamy parmesan cheesy sauce in each shell cup.  Parmesan on top is the salty and nutty finish! #healthypasta #healthyitalian #familydinner #dinnerideas

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 562 kcal
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Italian Sausage

  • 16 oz Ground White Meat Chicken - raised w/o antibiotics (or ground turkey)
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 3 tbsp Parsley Chopped
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seed
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

All Other

  • 10 oz Uncooked Pasta, Shells or Orecchiette
  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, small
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 cups Kale, chopped
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the parsley, and measure out the fennel seed, salt, and pepper. Then add all to the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine. Cover the bowl and store in the fridge until ready to cook.

    Italian Sausage ingredients in bowl for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  2. Dice the onion and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to cook.

    Knife dicing onion for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  3. Clean the kale and dry it in a clean towel.  Then rough chop it into bite-size pieces.  Store the kale in the fridge with a cool damp towel on top until ready to cook.

    Cleaned & chopped kale for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Cooking Steps

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente. Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer until the sauce is ready.

  2. To a preheated large pan/skillet, add a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the Italian Sausage, breaking it up with a spatula or spoon into small bite-size pieces. Let it sit and sear for about 4-5 minutes. Then stir so that the other sides sear. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until no pieces are pink and look fully cooked through. Remove to a plate.

    Italian Sausage cooking in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  3. Add another tsp of Olive Oil if needed, then add the onions and garlic. Stir so they do not burn. Cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the kale, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

    Cooking kale in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  4. While the kale begins to cook, make the slurry by adding the 2 tbsp of cornstarch to the milk and stirring until dissolved.

    Cornstarch & milk slurry for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  5. Add the chicken broth and the milk slurry to the pan. As the sauce heats up, it will start to thicken, so be sure to stir every couple minutes as this happens to prevent clumping. Once the liquid has thickened a little, about 4-5 minutes (note, it will not be very thick, just a little bit thicker than it was), add the sausage back to the pan.

    Italian Sausage being added to kale sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  6. Test the Kale, if it needs to cook more, cover and let cook for another few minutes. If the Kale is cooked to your liking, add the cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan Cheese. Mix to combine. If needed, you can add more of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

    Mixing parmesan with pasta and Italian Sausage in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  7. Serve the pasta garnishing with more Parmesan Cheese.

    Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale on a plate. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Recipe Notes

  1. You could replace the homemade Italian Sausage with 1 lb (16oz) store-bought bulk Italian Sausage
  2. For the pasta, I used medium shells, but you could use any pasta you like.  The small-cut pasta with a cup shape to capture the parmesan and sausage is traditional, but any will taste great!
  3. For the parmesan, you can use grated or shredded.  The grated is best as it can really mix into the dish to create a sauce.

 

Dreamy Bacon Mac and Cheese

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Bacon Mac and Cheese on a plate. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
Bacon Mac and Cheese in baking dish. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Luscious, decadent, mouthwatering, and irresistible.  This is my daughter’s  Dreamy Bacon Mac and Cheese recipe and it’ll make you sooooo happy!  The creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  You get the traditional cheesy backdrop from the cheddar and then more depth and nuttiness from the manchego.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!  

The great thing about this recipe is that you can always have the ingredients on hand in your pantry and your freezer!  The cheese can be shredded and stored in the freezer as well as the bacon.  The pasta, cornstarch, and bouillon are on hand in the pantry.  So if you can’t get to the store, make THIS Bacon Mac and Cheese!

Click here to more freezer food storage top with my printable cheat sheet with 10 Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

Bacon Mac and Cheese scooped up. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

A Little Bacon Goes a Long Way!

Bacon has a reputation for being unhealthy because of the fat and cholesterol.  Of course, if you are eating tons of bacon everyday, it can of course be unhealthy.  But, as with any food, moderation is extremely important.  A small serving of bacon, for example 1.2oz or 1-2 slices depending on the cut, is about 70 calories and 5-7g of fat.  There is also new information about bacon’s cholesterol impact and “scientists now agree that it has minor effects on cholesterol levels in your blood“.

AND a little bacon goes a long way!  I love to use bacon in recipes where a little bit can completely infuse an entire dish.  Whether it’s a sauce, a stew, or soup, bacon can take the flavor from good to great with just a little bit!  In this Bacon Man and Cheese recipe, I only used 2oz in the entire recipe!  But I crumbled it up and added it to the sauce from the start so the smokey flavor would infuse all of the cheesy goodness.  THEN, I used the bacon fat to crisp up the cracker topping!  Only 5g of fat from the Bacon in this dish!

Here is another delicious bacon-in-moderation recipe to try: Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, & Chicken Stew!

More on Bacon

Bacon is a great source of high-quality complete protein with about 30-40g in a serving.  It also contains B6 and B12 which are good for your immune system!

Be sure to look for UNCURED or NITRATE-FREE bacon.  Cured bacon is soaked in nitrates to preserve it before smoking it.  However, there are many brands now that offer a more natural option without toxins, such as nitrates. 

You should consult your doctor or nutritionist for any dietary changes or questions. 

Bacon Mac and Cheese on a plate. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

You need (1) a large pasta pot (2) a baking dish and (3) a medium-size (8″ or similar size is good) frying pan.

For the baking dish, I love to use a deep loaf dish vs. a casserole dish. The pasta and sauce stay thicker and creamier vs. drying out in a thinner layer. I used a ceramic 1 pound loaf dish that was 10″x 5″x 3.5″. You could also use an 8″x 8″ baking dish.

PREP-AHEAD FOR YOUR BACON MAC AND CHEESE

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (See the recipe below for more details) 

In terms of prep-ahead, you can certainly make this entire dish and reheat it later.  However, I recommend just prepping the ingredients and eating it right after you make it, when it’s creamiest.  Once it goes into the fridge, the pasta soak up the sauce. 

You can prep ahead the cheeses, the bacon, crackers, and the parsley.  You can even cook up the bacon bits and the cracker crumb topping. 

Shred the manchego cheese and cheddar cheese.

Manchego and Cheddar on cutting board for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Shredding Manchego for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Shredded Manchego and Cheddar on cutting board for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs! Chop the parsley. Crush the crackers.Chopped Parsley for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Crackers in bag for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Crushing crackers in bag for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Dice the bacon.  Since I use only a little bit of bacon at a time, I store mine in the freezer.  I can then cut off just the amount I need across all slices and put the rest back in the freezer!

Knife cutting raw bacon for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Raw bacon diced for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Preheat a medium (about 8″) frying pan. Add the diced bacon on medium heat. Stir so that the bacon doesn’t burn. Render the fat and crip the bacon. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon leaving the fat behind and place on a plate to the side or store in the fridge if doing this in advance.Raw diced bacon in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Cooked bacon pieces in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

To the bacon fat still left in the pan, add a tbsp of butter and melt it stirring it into the bacon fat. Add the cracker crumbs and the parsley and mix to coat with the fat. Stir and toast in the pan on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside or store in fridge until ready to top the mac and cheese.

bacon fat and butter in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Cracker crumbs and parsley in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Cracker crumbs and parsley in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

COOK YOUR BACON MAC AND CHEESE 

I realize that this recipe is called ‘Mac’ and Cheese, but we are opting for Fettuccine instead.  You can use any pasta you want, but my daughter loves fettuccine and she created this recipe.  While Italian grandmothers are probably rolling in their graves, I do break this pasta in half.  Frankly, it’s just easier for me to cook than trying to cook and easier for the kids to eat in smaller pieces.

Fettuccine pasta broken in half for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Boil the pasta in a large pot of water with a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt.  Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer until the sauce is ready.

Make the cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch into the cold milk.Adding cornstarch to milk for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Using the same pot that you used for the pasta, add the reserved 1 cup of pasta water plus 1 bouillon cube or chicken/vegetable base. Heat to simmer and dissolve the bouillon.  Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and add the cooked bacon pieces. Continue to whisk while it heats through and starts to thicken (about 2-3 minutes).

Adding cornstarch slurry to broth for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Adding cooked bacon bits to sauce for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Whisk in the shredded cheeses and stir until it is completely combined and smooth.

Adding shredded cheese to sauce for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Daughter cooking Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Add in the cooked pasta and mix to combine. Pour the pasta and cheese sauce into a baking dish that is either loaf size 10″ x 5″ x 3.5″ or 9″ x 9″ x 2″. Add the cracker crumbs on top.Mixing fettuccine into cheese sauce for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Pouring cracker crumbs over pasta for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Pouring Fettuccine Bacon Mac and Cheese into a baking dish. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes just for the topping to get extra crispy.

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Bacon Mac and Cheese on a plate. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

 

Bacon Mac and Cheese on a plate. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
5 from 1 vote
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Dreamy Mac and Cheese

This Bacon Mac and Cheese will make you so happy!  The creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  You get the traditional cheesy backdrop from the cheddar and then more depth and nuttiness from the manchego.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!  

Course Main Course, pasta, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Bacon, casserole, cheese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Bacon
  • 10 oz Dry Fettuccine Pasta, broken in half
  • 6 oz Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz Manchego Cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Water (use the pasta water after pasta cooks)
  • 18-20 Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Italian Parsley, chopped

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Shred the manchego cheese and cheddar cheese

    Shredded Manchego and Cheddar on cutting board for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  2. Chop the parsley. Crush the crackers. Dice the bacon.

    Knife cutting raw bacon for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  3. Preheat a medium (about 8") frying pan. Add the diced bacon on medium heat. Stir so that the bacon doesn't burn. Render the fat and crip the bacon. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon leaving the fat behind and place on a plate to the side or store in the fridge if doing this in advance.

    Cooked bacon pieces in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  4. To the bacon fat still left in the pan, add a tbsp of butter and melt it stirring it into the bacon fat. Add the cracker crumbs and the parsley and mix to coat with the fat. Stir and toast in the pan on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside or store in fridge until ready to top the mac and cheese.

    Cracker crumbs and parsley in pan for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!

Cook your Bacon Mac and Cheese

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it all is immersed in the water and doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente. Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer until the sauce is ready.

    Save 1 cup of pasta water to dish for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  2. Make the cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch into the cold milk.

    Adding cornstarch to milk for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  3. Using the same pot that you used for the pasta, add the reserved 1 cup of pasta water plus 1 bouillon cube or chicken/vegetable base. Heat to simmer and dissolve the bouillon. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and add the cooked bacon pieces. Continue to whisk while it heats through and starts to thicken (about 2-3 minutes).

    Adding cooked bacon bits to sauce for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  4. Whisk in the shredded cheeses and stir until it is completely combined and smooth.

    Adding shredded cheese to sauce for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  5. Add in the cooked pasta and mix to combine. Pour the pasta and cheese sauce into a baking dish that is either loaf size 10" x 5" x 3.5" or 9" x 9" x 2". Add the cracker crumbs on top.

    Pouring cracker crumbs over pasta for Bacon Mac and Cheese. It has a creamy and cheesy sauce with a touch of smokiness from the bacon, coats each piece of pasta.  On top, crispy crunchy, indulgent bacon fat cracker crumbs!
  6. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes just for the topping to get extra crispy.