P&P Mac & Cheese
Everyone has their own version of homemade mac and cheese -- this happens to be my favorite. My mother-in-law is a fabulous cook, and I've been using her mac and cheese recipe as my base for over ten years!
This baked mac and cheese is full of different techniques. The cheese is not grated and there is no roux or pre-melting process. Instead, it relies on creating layers of pasta and sliced cheese then soaking the layers in a milk and heavy cream mixture and fully baking in the oven. The result is a rich, thick mac and cheese with a gooey base and crispy top! My favorite version is P&P (pancetta and peas) but it can be made plain or with a variety of additions such as crab and roasted broccoli or shredded chicken and bacon!
P&P Mac & Cheese
- ½ pound | Pancetta (thick sliced)
- 2 pounds | Cellentani Pasta
- 24 ounces | Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 1 ½ cups | Peas (fresh or frozen)
- 1 tablespoon | Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons | Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon | Cayenne Powder
- ½ teaspoon | Ground Nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon | Dry Mustard
- ¾ stick | Unsalted Butter
- 2 cups | Whole Milk
- 1 cup | Heavy Whipping Cream
- Cube pancetta into bite size chunks, about the size of large peas. Heat skillet over medium heat and cook pancetta until fat renders and pancetta is crispy, about 5-8 minutes (depending on thickness). Remove crispy pancetta from fat and rest on paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
- Fill boiling pot with water, add pancetta fat drippings and bring to boil. Once boiled, add pasta and cook as directed on package until al dente. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Slice blocks of cheese into ⅛-inch slices. Set aside.
- Mix together salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and mustard to create seasoning. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350° F and place rack in the center of the oven.
- Gather crispy pancetta, cooked cellentani, sliced cheese, peas, seasoning and butter.
- Add about ⅓ of the pasta to baking dish and sprinkle ½ of a cup of peas evenly over pasta. Neatly layer about ⅓ of the sliced cheese on top of the pasta and peas. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, breaking it up and dolloping it on top of the layer of cheese. Sprinkle about ⅓ of the seasoning over the layer of cheese. Repeat the process again to create the second layer.
- For the final layer, toss the remaining ½ cup of peas and all of the crispy pancetta in the bowl with the remaining ⅓ of pasta. Sprinkle on top of second layer and proceed with adding the final layer of cheese, butter and seasoning.
- Whisk together milk and heavy whipping cream in a large liquid measuring cup. Carefully pour milk and cream mixture evenly over the mac and cheese. Do this slowly to avoid the mixture running off the slices of cheese and outside the baking dish. You want to go slow and ensure you’re getting as much of the mac and cheese wet as possible.
- Bake for 60-70 minutes until bubbly and the top is a dark golden brown. After about 50 minutes, if the top is getting too dark, cover with foil to prevent further browning. Let rest for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.. This step is important as it lets the milk and cream mixture settle and properly thicken.
- Store leftovers in fridge or freeze for up to 6 months.