This recipe is inspired by my friend Louise’s mum's incredible, homemade macaroni cheese. I have eaten macaroni cheese many, many, many, many, many, many times - it is one of those meals that I could happily live on for the rest of time - but nothing ever comes close to this recipe, which is pimped with fried leeks, bacon, mushrooms, and topped with sliced tomatoes.
Lou and I used to flat-share in London and whenever her mum Pat used to visit, she would cook this. It is delicious and comforting, the sort of food that fills your tummy whilst giving you a bear hug and reading you a bedtime story. When Lou and I lived together our diet consisted mainly of white wine, and it was also the heyday of Atkins when pasta was a SIN AGAINST HUMANITY, so eating this was such a nourishing, guilty pleasure.
Pat probably makes a proper cheese sauce from scratch, but I’ve gone for a cheat’s version here using creme fraiche, grated cheese and the pasta cooking water (a handy one for quick and easy cheesy pasta too). I also like to put dijon mustard in cheese sauce, which gives it an extra, savoury kick.
creme fraiche - about 2/3 of a 200ml tub
roughly 150-200g grated cheese
200g pack of lardons
1 leek, sliced
handful of mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
large tomato, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees fan).
- Cook the macaroni until very al dente - it will continue to cook in the oven so don't worry about it being undercooked.
- Fry the leek in oil and butter until soft, add the lardons and fry until cooked, then add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the dijon mustard.
- Put a handful of grated cheese aside, and mix the rest into the creme fraiche.
- Drain the macaroni reserving about a cup of the cooking water - put this back in the pan with the pasta then add the creme fraiche and grated cheese and mix well until the macaroni is well coated in a lovely, cheesy sauce.
- Mix the leeks, bacon and mushrooms into the macaroni cheese, season with salt and pepper, and put into an oven-proof dish.
- Cover generously with the rest of the grated cheese, then sliced tomatoes, and put in the oven for about 25 minutes.