Enjoy this guest post with an indulgent, mouthwatering recipe that'll take the edge off the cold by Miss Nik, New Pi's Mistress of Wine and Cheese:
When I dream of perfect winter pairings, few things sound as profoundly delicious as Four Cheese Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Mushrooms, accompanied by a youthful, fruit-forward Pinot Noir. The “Siduri” and “The Forager” Pinot Noirs from Sonoma County are two of my favorites that fully express Pinot’s complex and delicate flavor profile. For a crowd-pleasing budget option, I reach for the Castle Rock Mendocino, Lighthorse, or McManis Pinot.
The kitchen fills with the sublime perfume of bubbling cheese, smoky bacon, buttery toasted breadcrumbs, and caramelized, wine-soaked mushrooms. Pinot Noir’s cherry-cola fruit flavors and subtle, earthy undertones blend beautifully with the savory-salty bacon, while the wine’s high-toned acidity cleanses the palate, ensuring a full flavor experience with each velvety bite. This Mac & Cheese is made for Pinot Noir!
Serve with a lightly dressed salad of dark leafy greens, dried cherries, sliced English cucumbers, and toasted walnuts for the perfect foil to this ultra-rich adult version of the winter comfort classic.
Four Cheese Mac & Cheese with Bacon & Mushrooms
Recipe by Miss Nik
Serves 6-10, depending on appetite and sides
1 lb. Medium Shells, Cavatappi, or Penne pasta, cooked al dente
6 strips thick-sliced, uncooked bacon
8 oz. package sliced Crimini (Baby Bella) mushrooms
1 medium shallot, finely minced
¼ c. Pinot Noir
½ c. butter, cubed + 1 T. for breadcrumbs
½ c. flour
1 qt. whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of ground mustard or garlic, if desired
white pepper, to taste
12 oz. carton Pacific Cream of Chicken soup (adds savory depth and creamy texture)
6 oz. Gruyère cheese
6 oz. Zamorano cheese (cheeses all available at your Co-op)
10 oz. Applewood Smoked Cheddar, divided - 4 oz. (1 c. grated) reserved for topping
4 oz. Taleggio, rind trimmed and discarded
½ t. lemon juice (or a splash of Sauvignon Blanc – the acidity keeps the cheese from becoming stringy)
1 c. panko style breadcrumbs (your Co-op also has panko our bakehouse’s version of panko breadcrumbs, available by our hearth breads)
Grate the cheeses (except the soft Taleggio) and let them come to room temperature.
Cook bacon in a medium skillet until crisp, then transfer to a cooling rack – leaving the drippings in the pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bacon drippings, then the mushrooms, stirring until they begin to brown. Add shallots, stirring frequently until mushrooms and shallots are lightly caramelized, and the pan is nearly dry. Add ¼ cup Pinot Noir to deglaze (you can add a little more Pinot or water if necessary), scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring until liquid is gone, and remove from heat.
In a large saucepan, melt ½ c. butter, then add ½ c. flour. Stir on low heat for 2-3 minutes to make a blonde roux. Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking until smooth. Add a pinch of nutmeg and cayenne (or garlic or mustard if you choose) and white pepper as desired. Add cream of chicken soup; stirring until the sauce comes to a low simmer (3-4 min.), and remove from heat. Sprinkle grated cheese (reserving 4 oz. – about a cup – of the Applewood Smoked Cheddar for topping) with the lemon juice or wine, then add it to the roux, along with the Taleggio, stirring until melted. If necessary, return pan to a low burner to melt the cheese. When the cheese is thoroughly incorporated, combine with cooked pasta and mushrooms. Crumble bacon and stir half of it in with the pasta, reserving the second half. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray (or grease it with butter), then transfer the pasta mixture to it.
Melt 1 T. butter in a small saucepan on low heat, then add panko breadcrumbs, stirring until combined.
Sprinkle the reserved Cheddar over the top of the pasta mixture. Top pasta with the breadcrumbs and reserved crumbled bacon, and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, or until internal temp is 165°F. Yum.