Here is a delicious, easy, make ahead casserole recipe that I have (believe it or not) toned down the fat content. The original recipe used bacon drippings to make the roux and it also called for 4 cups of heavy cream – I used 2 cups of milk and 2 heavy cream. It’s still fattening, but worth it once in a while.
Bacon, Pasta & Cheese Casserole
16 oz box penne pasta
6 slices bacon
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup butter, melted
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 Tbs buttter
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the penne, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink.
Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. Crumble the bacon into a bowl, then mix in the panko bread crumbs, butter, and chopped parsley. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and shallots; cook and stir until the shallots have softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute, then whisk in the heavy cream, milk and thyme. Continue to cook and stir until reduced by 1/3. Add Monterey Jack cheese and Cheddar cheese, stirring until cheeses have melted. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the penne pasta. Transfer the pasta mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven until bread crumbs have browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes.