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For Electric Cooperative Members

$500 Winner: Savory Category

Rebecca Brauchle | Bandera EC

What’s not to love about copious amounts of cheese plus bacon? Brauchle’s Smoky Mac and Cheese is particularly swoon-worthy. The dish comes together quickly, so it’s a manageable weeknight dinner—but also decadent enough for a holiday meal.

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 package (16 ounces) cavatappi pasta
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 package (16 ounces) processed cheese product, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound bacon
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 11-by-15-inch or 5-quart baking dish with butter. In a saucepan, prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer noodles to prepared baking dish.

2. Heat the cream and milk in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese product, garlic salt, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until smooth. Stir in remaining cheeses and cook until melted and fully combined.

3. Remove cheese mixture from heat and pour over the pasta. Place bacon strips on top and bake 35 minutes.

4.Remove dish from oven. Using kitchen shears, carefully cut the bacon into small pieces, then stir pieces into the hot pasta. Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs over the pasta and bake an additional 15 minutes. Allow the pasta to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4–6.

Cook’s Tip

For the best texture, avoid overcooking the pasta; boil until it’s al dente, or barely tender. It will finish cooking with the cheese mixture.