Comforts of Home: Mac-n-Cheese with Pancetta and Peas

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Some days you just don’t want to leave the house. You know exactly what I mean. You putter around, watch TV, go online, read a book, find things to do here and there, and before you know it, it’s dinnertime. I’ve been having a lot of those days lately. I attribute it to the fact that I not only love my home (I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase as a first-time homeowner), but I also love any excuse to stay in and make food that’s fresh, fast, easy and, of course, super tasty. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. A lot. 

A few weeks ago, I became obsessed with the idea of making Mac-n-Cheese from scratch. Odd because I wouldn’t normally classify myself as a Mac-n-Cheese-girl. (It’s more my sister Laura’s thing). And, I never enjoyed the stuff from the box with the orange powder pouch. But, there I was, frantically searching my Food Network and Pinterest apps for a cheesy and crusty Mac-n Cheese recipe. 

After narrowing it down to a few contenders, I got to thinking about the elements I liked and what I would add, remove or substitute, you know, to do my own thing. (I do that a lot a lot)Gooey doesn’t cut it for me. I need those browned, caramel bits on top or it’s curtains. What I ended up with is the masterpiece you see here. (Yup, I’m totally modest too). 

If the pictures aren’t enticing enough, I’ll break it down a little further: The pancetta adds a savory, salty element along with the desired crunchiness, and by using the pancetta grease, you don’t need to add butter to make the roux. The pasta shells combine perfectly with a low-fat cheese sauce. Yes, you read that right: low-fat. I am probably most excited to report that I used skim milk, non-fat Greek yogurt and reduced fat cheeses in this recipe, and it still tastes flipping fantastic! The peas? I added them not only for a little sweetness to balance all of the savory I have going on here, but also because I felt an obligation to include *something* green. The other great part of this dish? I had all of the ingredients on hand (a total timesaver). 

If you have Mac-n-Cheese lovers in your house, you should definitely try this one. It’s a great way to get the kids to eat their vegetables!

C’mon, who wouldn’t want to eat this?

Mac-n-Cheese with Pancetta and Peas
Yields 4 (Heaping) Servings

1/2 lb Medium Pasta Shells
1-8oz. package pancetta, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup reduced fat shredded monterey jack / cheddar cheese mix
1-8oz. container non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a saucepan, cook pancetta until golden brown and crispy. In the meantime, cook pasta shells according to package directions and drain, but do not rinse. Combine cheddar and monterey jack cheeses in a bowl.

2. Remove pancetta from pan, taking care to reserve grease. Add flour to grease over medium heat, stirring constantly, to create a roux. Once the mixture starts to brown, add the milk. Let the mixture come to a simmer and add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture and the container of yogurt. Stir until well combined. 

3. Add cheese mixture to pasta. Stir to coat. Add peas and grated parmesan cheese. Mix to combine. 

4. Grease a 9×9 baking pan. Pour half of the pasta mixture into the pan. Top with half of the remaining cheese and half of the pancetta. Repeat with remaining pasta, cheese and pancetta. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown and pasta is bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Do you love Mac-n-Cheese? What’s your favorite flavor combo? Post a comment below.

5 Responses to “Comforts of Home: Mac-n-Cheese with Pancetta and Peas”

  1. Suzan Acker

    I’m about to start making this recipe right now. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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