Rick Stein's Mac & Cheese with Bacon

The key to a great Italian dish is 'esagera' meaning a little more of everything. Rick Stein pulls out all the stops with his ultimate macaroni cheese with bacon and a crunchy breadcrumb topping. Prepare to be impressed.

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Rick Stein

“Someone I met in Palermo once told me that the secret of good Italian dishes is ‘esagera’ – put more of everything in – and so it is with this mac & cheese recipe. There’s masses of cheese and plenty of smoked bacon.”

Rick Stein


  • 100g/3½oz butter, plus extra for greasing

  • 100g/3½oz plain flour

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

  • 1.2 litres/2 pints full-fat milk

  • 75ml/2½fl oz double cream

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 400g/14oz mature cheddar, grated

  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg

  • 500g/1lb 2oz dried macaroni

  • 100g/3½oz smoked bacon lardons or smoked pancetta cubes

  • 60g/2¼oz white breadcrumbs

  • 50g/1¾oz Parmesan, grated

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 and grease a 35x20cm/14x8in ovenproof dish..

  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the plain flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the mustard, take the pan off the heat and gradually whisk in the milk and cream. Add the bay leaf.

  3. Put the pan back over the heat, stirring constantly, until it boils and thickens. Take the pan off the heat again, remove the bay leaf and add the cheddar. Stir until the cheese has melted. Season with lots of black pepper and some nutmeg.

  4. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and stir in the macaroni. Cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente, drain well and add to the sauce.

  5. Fry the bacon in a frying pan until crisp. Stir into the macaroni cheese and pour the mixture into the ovenproof dish.

  6. Mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan and scatter over the top. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden-brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

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