|Miss F's favorite place to eat after swim lessons is Panera. She is obsessed with there macaroni and cheese. I have been planning to make this Panera recipe from Smells Like Home forever. I saw the fun addition of bacon and peas from Confections of a Foodie Bride. It seemed like a perfect chance to merge the recipes. Miss F loves bacon and peas, so I knew she would adore this recipe. The sauce is deliciously rich and creamy, so I know it would standalone on its own quite well. I purchased the cheese from my grocer's deli counter, which is cheaper than buying it prepackaged and you can get the exact amount needed.|
1 pound small pasta shells
4 slices bacon
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
4 ounces white American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
8 ounces extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, chopped or torn into pieces
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
1 ½ cup frozen peas
In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
While the pasta cooks, cook the bacon in a Dutch oven. Drain the bacon on paper towels and crumble. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease, add the butter and melt over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 ½ minutes whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.
Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the peas and pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve with bacon sprinkled on top.
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