Updated: Mar 14
Everyone loves Mac & Cheese. I mean, how could you not? And although I am totally on board with the traditional pasta-and-cheese-sauce-and-nothing-else version, I also can't help but look at it as a blank canvas just begging to be customized depending on your mood/the season/what you've got in your fridge. And that, my friends, is how this little number of a recipe came about. I was looking at the veggies in my crisper drawer, and this pound of Brussels sprouts was looking back at me, like "Well, you brought me home, Dummy. Are we gonna dance or what?" And then I looked in my freezer and found one of those packages of diced pancetta. And then I looked at my spice rack and asked myself what would go best with Brussels sprouts and pancetta, and the Dijon Spice Blend was basically waving at me, saying "Pick me! Pick me!!"
Now, initially, my plan was to season the sprouts with the Dijon, roast them, and then toss them with crispy pancetta and serve them alongside something else, like salmon or chicken or some such protein. That would have been a marvelous dinner, but for some reason pasta popped into my head (or maybe it's just always there in the back of my mind...), and I could literally sense what a rich cheese sauce would taste like with some of my Dijon Mustard Spice Blend mixed in. Magic. Magic is what it tastes like. So here we are, and I'm not even sorry about dousing my Brussels sprouts in cheese sauce because, let's be honest, that's kind of how we all want to go, isn't it?
Pancetta & Brussels Sprout Mac
Makes 4-6 servings
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard Spice Blend
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered if large
12 ounces short pasta of choice (I like shells or orrechiette here)
1/4 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 400F.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. Add the Brussels sprouts 2 minutes before the pasta is done. Scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta and sprouts.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add diced pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely browned. Transfer pancetta to a bowl and set aside, leaving the pancetta fat in the dutch oven. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Lower heat and add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly until it bubbles up and stops smelling like raw flour. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go to smooth out lumps. Bring heat back up to medium and continue stirring as the sauce starts to thicken. Add the Dijon Mustard Spice Blend and continue stirring. Once the sauce coats the back of your spoon, remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the cheese. Stir in a figure eight to melt the cheese. (Note: I'm not sure why the figure eight trick works so well, but it's literally the best way to melt cheese into a sauce.) Add the pancetta to the cheese sauce, followed by the pasta and sprouts. Stir to combine.
Transfer mixture to a large (13x9) baking pan. (Note: If you are only feeding 2-3 people, you can use two smaller baking pan instead and freeze one for later.) Sprinkle with Parmiggiano Reggiano. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling it bubbling. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.