Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Candied Bacon Pretzel Mac & Cheese

Our friend Jason held his birthday at Infusion Brewing in Trinity last week. The brewery was hosting a mac & cheese competition that day so of course we had to participate!

The contest was judged on cheesiness, texture, seasoning, overall taste, and creativity. We spent time on Pinterest trying to find a unique recipe and came across a couple that incorporated pretzels for crunchy texture, which was perfect since they also pair great with beer! As an added bonus, we also topped ours with candied bacon, one of Lance’s mom’s recipes.

There were nine different kinds (one was disqualified since it was made by one of the brewers). There was a pretty good variety, but I’m of course biased and loved ours the best! Our second favorite was actually the disqualified one which incorporated Infusion Brewing’s “Pep in Yo Step” Double IPA, brewed with jalapeƱo and serrano peppers.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the winners this time – honestly I think it wasn’t as much based on taste/creativity as it was on who had the largest group of people with them to vote. Ours was completely devoured by the time we left, so in my books that means we won. And now we have a really awesome go-to mac and cheese recipe if we really want to splurge!

We doubled the recipe below which ended up making even more than would fit in our large crockpot. Unless you’ve got a huge group, a single version of the recipe will feed plenty of people

Candied Bacon Pretzel Mac & Cheese (adapted from Food to Love)

  • 8 pieces candied bacon (recipe here), broken into bite-sized pieces  
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta (you can use whatever kind you like, but the spiral shape held the cheese pretty well)
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups milk (we used 2%)
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups pepperjack cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella  
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 cup pretzels, chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs


1. Cook the candied bacon according to the recipe (this can be done a day ahead of time since it takes two hours to cook).

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than the cooking time in the instructions.

4. Shred the cheddar, mozzarella and pepperjack cheeses.

5. Drain and dump the cooked pasta into a large greased baking dish (we used a disposable one since we didn’t have one large enough).

6. Process cream cheese, salt, and mustard until smooth. Add half the milk, process until smooth. Pour over the pasta mixture. Stir in the remaining milk, cream, half of the candied bacon, and 4 cups of the shredded cheese mixture.  

7. Top the pasta with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese, remaining candied bacon, and the panko breadcrumbs

8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

9. Take out of oven and top with pretzel pieces.

Note: We had to transfer this all to a crockpot to keep it warm at the competition, so we waited to add the candied bacon and pretzel topping until we moved the pasta to the new dish.

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