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Wednesday 21 November 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Stilton, Walnut & Pancetta Macaroni Cheese

The owls are not what they seem
As the old ladies of Dundee are now reminding me on a nigh-on hourly basis, the nights are fairly drawing in. And all this darkness obviously means that I need to eat macaroni cheese, because scientific research has proven* that macaroni cheese - or to give it its Latin name, Pasta Caseus - boasts many health-giving properties, and may be prescribed as Magical Sunlight Replacement Therapy (MSRT).

Medical science aside, I love all kinds of mac 'n' cheese, not just the fancy-schmancy concoctions. Hell, I even like that stuff that comes in the tartan packet. Yessir. Last night, however, what I wanted was stilton. And walnuts. OOH, and pancetta. And then I thought: is this really enough carbs? The answer was a deafening NO. 

Hello, croutons.

Stilton, Walnut & Pancetta Macaroni Cheese (serves 4)

You'll need:

  • 400g dried macaroni
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 25g plain flour
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
  • 100g stilton, crumbled
  • 100g pancetta, diced (or use prepacked lardons)
  • 100g walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1tsp mustard powder
  • 1tsp nutmeg, freshly grated or from a jar
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • A little olive oil for cooking
  • 50g white baguette, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
Make it!
  1. Preheat your oven to 200°/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water as salty as the sea (happily we do not require the actual sea here, because it contains a very many unsavoury foreign objects) until it's al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, spread your bread cubes on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season, then bake in the centre of the oven for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown. 
  4. Heat a little olive oil in a shallow pan, then fry the pancetta/lardons until crispy-ish. Throw in the garlic at the last minute, to avoid a garlic-burning catastrophe. 
  5. When the pancetta is done, the croutons should be, too - set both aside for later. Resist the urge to eat all the croutons now. Tsk.
  6. Drain the pasta and set to work making the sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the flour. Stir continuously for a minute. Pour in the milk and whisk until you have a white sauce, then add the cheese and stir until it's all melted. 
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and add the nutmeg, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.
  8. In the pasta pot, combine all your ingredients except the croutons - those who've been paying attention will know that's the macaroni, cheese sauce, walnuts, and pancetta with garlic. STIR.
  9. Transfer to a large ovenproof dish, or four individual ones if you prefer, and top with the croutons.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. If the croutons start to catch, open the door a little.
  11. YUM.
*The research was carried out by esteemed culinary scientist, Laura Brown, in her custom-built home laboratory. One woman in her early-30s took part in the trial, eating macaroni cheese every teatime for three consecutive nights. The results were conclusively in favour of macaroni cheese being a viable substitute for sunshine, in terms of mood-enhancement, feelings of well-being, increased energy, and general optimism. Oh my stars, I think it might even give you an all-over tan.


  1. Where can I get the lovely serving pots as pictured?? All dishes would taste better in those...

    1. Vikki, they're Le Creuset lidded soup bowls in Volcanic Orange: Quite pricy at £27 for two, but they're good in the oven, the microwave, the freezer, and the dishwasher! TK Maxx often has them at bargain prices, so keep a look out there if there's one near you!


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