A old classic – delicious in its very unassuming state but wide-open to interpretation. Here I’ve added some lardons but you can also add chopped pancetta, slightly wilted spinach or even sausages. Or try using cheddar/parmesan/blue cheese in equal quantities for the cheese sauce. Serve with a big green salad… Serves 4.
80g lardons or diced pancetta
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
For the cheese sauce:
40g plain flour
1 tsp strong English mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g blue cheese (Roquefort, Stilton or Irish blue)
115g grated parmesan
100g dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 200’C. Cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water until just cooked. Drain, return to the pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a medium frying pan over a gentle heat until it just starts to brown, add the thyme leaves and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and toss into the pasta.
For the sauce combine butter, flour and mustard in a small pan and heat until the butter has melted, remove from the heat and stir in the milk, whisking well. Put back on the heat to bring to the boil, simmer for 3 minutes remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the blue cheese and half the parmesan to the sauce.
Add the sauce to the pasta mixture and stir everything together. Transfer to a shallow oven dish or four individual oven dishes, then scatter with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and the topping is golden-brown.