Don’t let the title of this blog post fool you. People will be BEGGING you to cut the cheese when they hear this recipe. But to answer the question, it was Sargento who cut the cheese in a big, big way. And I love them for it!
One of the perks of being a foodie is there are often companies out there wanting folks who are willing to try out their products. You help them by giving honest reviews and posting your experience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. The best part is that you get their product free of charge. As a member of Influenster, I was more than happy to volunteer to help Sargento cheese introduce their delicious product, Ultra Thin Cheese Slices. They gave me vouchers to get the cheese free of charge, and all I had to do was make stuff out of it, eat it and share my knowledge (and recipes) on it. One bite told me I got the better end of the deal.
I’ll give you a brief synopsis of why Sargento hit a home run with this product and then I’ll get to the real reason why you are reading this: THE FANTABULOUS RECIPE THAT HAS BOTH CHEESE AND BACON IN IT! (Queue the powerful voice announcer with the accompanying echo). Sargento Ultra Thin cheese is so wonderful you will weep with appreciation of their genius-ness. They offer a TON of varieties, all under 45 calories per slice. That’s right – 45 SCANT CALORIES PER SLICE! The calories in 3 slices of Sargento’s Ultra Thin cheeses is less than the calories in ONE slice of a normal slice of cheese. Plus (this is where the genius part comes in), the slices still have all of the flavor and cooking properties of the higher calorie brands. Sargento may have skimped on the the calories, but that’s all they skimped on. Fewer calories, superb taste and exceptional melting abilities make this cheese a must have.
And now, on to the recipe!
When I was planning what to make with the cheese, I immediately thought mac-and-cheese. Everybody likes mac-n-cheese. I had a specific target for my creation – men. The men in my life are so picky when it comes to eating healthy. They love to eat healthy, they just don’t want me using reduced calorie/fat/sugar ingredients to make it. They like to shout out all sorts of reasons why they don’t want that stuff, too. “It leaves a bad after taste”, “It tastes like plastic”, “It doesn’t have the same consistency”, “I feel like I’m eating cardboard” are just a few of those excuses. I knew if I was targeting the less-fair of the sexes, it would have to scream “I’m a manly man’s dish” in order to get them past the whole “45 calorie” thing. mac-n-cheese is a good start, but I wanted more. While walking through Wal-Mart it hit me. How can I make mac-n-cheese more manly? ADD BACON OF COURSE!!! But not just any bacon. Healthy bacon. Turkey bacon. A LOT of turkey bacon. A few weeks ago I made some bacon bowls using a muffin tin, so I thought I’d try creating a bacon base on a larger scale. A lattice pie crust kind of scale. Ladies, if you’re ever looking to get “oohs” and “ahhs” over the stuff you make from your significant other, take my word for it – bacon weaved like a basket will get the job done. It goes over so well, I considered naming my bacon crust “Funky Cold Medina” because it is one crispy and delicious aphrodisiac. Want to know more? I have the ingredients and instructions below. You’re welcome. 🙂 P.S. Thanks, Darlene, for coming up with the name “mac-n-bac”. 🙂
1 pound turkey bacon
16 ounces uncooked macaroni
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 package sliced Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese – Colby Jack (reserve 6 slices for later)
1 package sliced Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese – Mild Cheddar (reserve 6 slices for later)
1 cup grated Sargento Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp basil
Take 1 pound of bacon and tightly basket weave it in the dish you are cooking the mac-n-cheese in. Once it is all weaved and arranged in the pan, place a layer of parchment paper on top of the bacon and set another dish that is roughly the same size on top of the parchment paper. This is to hold your bacon in place while it is cooking. Depending upon the size of your pan, you may have a few slices of bacon left over that was not needed in the weave. If so, place these slices on the pan sitting on top of the bacon crust and bake. You can use this extra bacon to crumble over the top of the mac-n-cheese, or you can do what I did which is SAY you are going to crumble it over the dish, but then eat it anyway because it smells too damn good NOT to eat as soon as it comes out of the oven. If you should choose Option #2, I highly recommend purchasing 2 pounds of turkey bacon so that when you eat the entire pound before any pasta/cheese touch it, you will have enough to go back to square one and start again.
In a saucepan, melt the stick butter over medium heat and stir in the flour. Add milk to the mix slowly while stirring constantly. Stir in the Ultra Thin cheeses and ½ cup of the Parmesan. Cook over low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce is slightly thick.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and the remaining ½ cup Parmesan and brown.
When the bacon is done cooking, pat the bacon gently with paper towel to absorb any excess grease. Lay 3 slices of the Colby Jack and 3 slices of the Mild Cheddar Ultra Thin Slices in an alternating pattern over the turkey bacon. Spoon the macaroni mixture into your bacon/cheese crust and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. Layer the 3 remaining mild cheddar slices and the 3 remaining colby jack slices on top of the macaroni. Sprinkle with nutmeg and basil leaves and whatever bacon wouldn’t fit in the weave.
Cook at 400°F for 15 minutes. Once your pie is done cooking let it cool and then dig in and enjoy!
Keep On Cookin’,