Swiss mountain recipe for macaroni and cheese

STEPS 5 INGREDIENTS 7 TIME 40 MINS

It may sound sacrilegious to American ears, but I've never been a huge fan of macaroni and cheese.

Mac n cheese - Alpine-style!

The versions I ate growing up in England were often gloopy and bland. And I guess that experience stayed with me.

It turns out that the lacklustre quality of these dishes was down to the quality of the cheese, only I didn't know that at the time. I worked it out after I moved here to Switzerland, where it turns out... they know a thing or two about cheese!

Here they serve up all kinds of fondues and racelettes, built around wonderfully strong and sometimes spicey varieties of cheese - like gruyere, appenzeller, and emmental - so the Swiss are therefore pretty handy at whipping up a tasty baked maraconi cheese when the need calls for it.

This dish is usually found on the menus of buvettes (chalets) up in the mountains - I think because it's such a calorifically restorative treat to feed folks who've spent the day skiing or snowshoeing (both really hard work).

It's from these Alpine eats that I've produced here what I reckon is a winning recipe for macaroni and cheese; a creamily moreish, chunky bacon-packed feast of a dish that leaves zero room for dessert. It's that filling.

(Kudos to Les Croisettes buvette, a popular kid-friendly destination in the Swiss Jura mountains, for feeding me several sumptuous gratins des pates - see pic above - and thus inspiring this page.)

More info: learn more about Swiss cheeses here.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

100g/3.5oz rashers of thick bacon
300g/10.5oz elbow macaroni (no macaroni? rigatoni would work)
200g/7oz gruyere cheese (alternative: appenzeller)
200dl/3.38 fl oz (half a cup) half-and-half/semi-skimmed cream
1 medium white onion
1/3 small glass of white wine
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Step 1

The prep for this mac n cheese recipe is super simple:

- Peel, de-end, and finely chop the onion.

- Grate the cheese into a bowl.

- Chop the bacon into half to one-inch (2-3cm) squares.

- Set your oven to 350F/180C (fan setting) to get it warming up.

Step 2

Warm the oil in a large frying pan on a medium hob, then add the onions and bacon.

- Fry these until the onions soften and the bacon just starts to brown

(Note: if your bacon is quite thin, fry the onions alone for 2-3 minutes first, as they'll take longer to soften than your bacon will take to brown.)

- Also add a pinch of salt.

- When the bacon begins to brown, pour in the wine and fry a couple of minutes more until most of its liquidity has disappeared (evaporating away the alcohol, but leaving the taste).

- Finally, pour in and mix through the cream.

- Fry for 3-4 mins more until the cream reduces in volume by half.

Step 3

Cook up the macaroni in a large pan of boiling, well-salted water until two minutes before its packet's suggested time (i.e. if the packet says cook for 10 mins, cook it for just 8).

- This will produce pasta that is very al dente ('firm to the tooth'), which we'll then finish cooking when we bake this dish.

Step 4

We finish up this recipe for macaroni and cheese by creating our final glorious mixture and filling our oven dish/bowl.

- Drain the pasta well, then drop it in a large mixing bowl.

- Add the bacon/onion mix and 80-90% of the cheese (i.e. all the cheese except one large handful).

- Add a little more salt and black pepper seasoning too (for this dish I add slightly more pepper than the usual single pinch).

- Stir it all really well.

- Then pour this mixture into a baking dish. (The diameter of our round dish, which suits these ingredients for two people, is approx. 9"/23cm.)

- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Step 5

And into the oven we go...

- Bake your dairylicious mound in a 350F/180C oven for 8 minutes (until the cheese melts).

- Then... turn the oven onto its grill setting and brown your mac and cheese for another 6-7 minutes or so (until its surface turns nice and brown and crunchy).

Done!

As they say in Suisse Romande (French-speaking Switzerland): C'est très bon ça! (That's real tasty!)

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