Macaroni Cheese

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.
     340g macaroni
     80g lardons or diced pancetta
     1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
     For the cheese sauce:
     40g butter
     40g plain flour
     1 tsp strong English mustard
     450-500ml milk
     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.