I've been making this particular recipe for well over a year and a half, and it's one that I pull out as often as I can because it's just that good. It does involve a lot of ingredients and the prep is a bit time-consuming, but it's one of those not-quick-or-easy recipes that is absolutely worth the work and the wait :)
Creamy BLT Mac-n-Cheese
1 pound ziti pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
8 slices bacon, chopped
2 [medium sized] leeks - trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
4 large or 6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
Two 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, cut into pieces
2 cups shredded Asiago cheese, separated
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
Baby Arugula or Spring Mix greens as a side
-Preheat the oven to 500°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
-While the pasta is working, heat a drizzle of EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp at the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the leeks and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Stir in half of the Asiago cheese (1 cup), then the reserved pasta cooking water.
- Put the pasta in a casserole and toss with the sauce. Top with the tomatoes and remaining shredded cheese. Bake until browned on top, 7 to 8 minutes.
Serve the Arugula/Spring Mix on the side with drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.