Last minute dinner sorted – Cook bacon mac ‘n cheese with hidden veges

Bacon mac 'n cheese - with some hidden ingredients.


Bacon mac ‘n cheese – with some hidden ingredients.

Rich, creamy, salty, and easy to shovel into your mouth with a spoon: Macaroni cheese is, in my view, the perfect comfort food. It’s what I make when I’m tired; it’s what I make when my kids are tired. It’s what I make when suddenly it feels like the night closes in early and I want to eat something that feels like climbing into a warm bed before I can climb into an actual warm bed.

Mac ‘n cheese is also very simple, and very forgiving.

This recipe calls for the addition of cauliflower and spinach, which do add a nice texture and some color along with those extra vitamins, but if you don’t have any, you can live without them. You can sub the bacon for ham, or smoked chicken, or even tinned tuna, or you can leave it out entirely. And if you don’t have all those herbs, there will still be plenty of flavour. Any cheese, or combination of cheeses, will do.

The dish won’t mind how you make it, really, and neither will your family.

* Recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese – My Food Bag
* Recipe: Chicken and bacon lasagne – My Food Bag
* How to turn 10 ingredients into 40 different recipes

Bacon mac ‘n cheese with hidden veges

by My Food Bag

Serves 4

Ready in 40 minutes


Pasta ingredients

¼ cauliflower

400g macaroni pasta

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

Sauce ingredients

250g shortcut bacon

1 week

1 tbsp mac ‘n’ cheese spices

1½ tsp chicken stock powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp mustard powder

⅛ tsp dried sage

⅛ tsp dried chefs

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1 cup cream

1¼ cups milk

100g baby spinach

1¼ cups grated cheese


Bring a pot of hot, salted tap water to the boil with a lid. Roughly chop cauliflower into small pieces. Add cauliflower and pasta to pot of boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes, until both are just tender. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water, then drain well. Return to pot with a drizzle of oil.

Heat a drizzle of oil and a knob of butter in a fry-pan on medium heat.

Add breadcrumbs, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until golden. Remove from heat and wipe pan clean.

Roughly chop bacon. Cut leek in half lengthways and thinly slice. Heat a drizzle of oil in same fry-pan on high heat. Cook bacon and leek for 5-7 minutes, until starting to colour. Add to pot with cooked and drained pasta. Keep pan on heat and reduce to low-medium.

Melt butter in pan, add mac ‘n’ cheese spices and flour, cook stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Gradually whisk in cream, milk and ¼ cup of reserved pasta water until smooth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Stir frequently.

Roughly chop spinach. When sauce has thickened, stir in cheese and spinach, season to taste. If sauce is too thick, add a little more water or milk. Pour into pot with cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Serve bacon mac ‘n’ cheese sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

More last-minute dinners

Pasta with long-cooked broccoli, by Ray McVinnie. Full recipe here.

Lemon & thyme chicken with pea & potato mash, by Olivia Andrews. Full recipe here.

Corn fritters with roast vegetable salad, by Nadia Lim. Full recipe here.

Cajun fish wraps and kumara chips with salad, by Nadia Lim. Full recipe here.