Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

7/23/2019 09:01:00 AM

Fully loaded sweet potato mac and cheese. Today's recipe is a comforting hug of a meal, a mac and cheese with the added deliciousness of sweet potato, mushrooms, spinach, two cheeses, and bacon. Sweet, salty, delicious bacon!

Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

And the winter warmer recipes keep on coming... I am so excited to share this recipe with you! This mac and cheese is pure comfort. I love all types of cheesy pasta bakes, but this one holds a special place in my heart. I first made it a few weeks ago, just throwing random things together to make a weeknight dinner, but the results were so fabulous that I just had to make it again and photograph it properly to share! There are a few separate components to make but it's so worth it.

I started off wanting to make something similar to Nigella's sweet potato mac and cheese, which is essentially cooked pasta, a bechamel / white sauce, some mashed sweet potato, and cheese, all stirred together and baked. It's wonderful, but I wanted to make it more of a full meal by adding some vegetables (mushrooms and baby spinach), and some crispy bacon, because bacon. It's a fully loaded sweet potato mac and cheese!

Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese ingredients

These additions are all wonderful, but the real kicker is that I use the bacon fat as the base of the bechamel, so that the delicious salty-smoky flavour permeates throughout the entire dish. It's a total game changer! I discovered this on a fluke. The first time I made this dish, I started off by cooking the bacon, and noticed that quite a bit of fat came off. The next step was to make the bechamel, which starts off with a good portion of melted better. I saw the pan with the melted bacon fat in it, and I just had a lightbulb moment - what if I were to use bacon fat instead of the butter? Would it work? Well, I gave it a go, and it did work! Brilliantly! Bacon bechamel! (I always buy fancy dry-cured streaky bacon from my favourite butcher, which tastes amazing, and is pretty expensive - I'm glad I didn't let any of it go to waste!)

You need a quarter cup (i.e. 62.5 millilitres) of fat to make the bechamel, so depending on your bacon you may have too much or too little. So I suggest pouring the bacon fat into a quarter cup measure, and adding as much butter as you need to bring it up to the quarter cup. After that, you just cook it as you would a normal bechamel - heating the bacon fat/butter in a pot, adding flour and cooking for a few minutes, gradually whisking in milk and cooking until thickened. A little paprika and mustard make it extra tasty.

Bacon Bechamel
Bacon Bechamel

Then, you add button mushrooms and keep stirring and cooking until the mushrooms go from fresh and bouncy...


... to softened and saucy.

Mushroom and Bacon Bechamel
Mushroom and Bacon Bechamel

That's the sauce done! Meanwhile, you gotta cook your macaroni and your sweet potato. (I prefer roasting the sweet potato in the oven because it's easier and keeps the house warm on a winter's day). I also like leaving the skin on for extra texture and I guess a tiny bit of extra nutrients. You mash the sweet potato, and then stir it together with the bacon and cooked macaroni. (Keep a little of the hot starchy water in which you cooked the pasta in case you need a little extra liquid to help it come together).

Macaroni, Bacon, Sweet Potato
Macaroni, Bacon, Sweet Potato

Stir the mushroomy sauce into the pasta, then add a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves to make it healthy (oh who am I kidding, you saw the bacon bechamel, but add the spinach anyway because it is nice). Pile the delicious gooey pasta into a baking dish, then cover with feta and grated tasty cheese, plus a little paprika and some chopped sage. Bake it until it's hot and bubbling and golden brown, then dig in!

Fully-Loaded Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

It's so good! Yes, it's comforting and bacony, but not over-the-top rich or stodgy. It's just a super flavourful macaroni and cheese! Depending on my mood, I like a small portion with a nice salad for extra freshness and nutrition, or just a big bowl in its entirety for pure comfort. It also freezes really well, so I suggest freezing a couple of individual portions for future easy lunches. Enjoy!

Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
A recipe by Sarah Cooks

250-300 grams sweet potatoes
200 grams macaroni pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
4 rashers streaky bacon, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
500 millilitres full-fat milk
200 grams sliced button mushrooms
1 teaspoon mild English mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika (plus extra for sprinkling)
60 grams baby spinach leaves
75 grams feta (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
75 grams grated tasty cheese (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
4 sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Wash the sweet potatoes. Rub the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, then wrap each one in foil. Roast for 30 minutes - 1 hour, or until soft when tested with a skewer. Remove to a bowl, and mash roughly, skin and all. (Roasting the sweet potatoes can be done in advance).
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Salt generously then add the macaroni. Once it's come back to a boil, cook for one minute less than the packet instructions suggest. Save a cup of the starchy cooking water with a mug, then drain the pasta and set aside.
Heat a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the bacon pieces, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces are crisp and the fat is rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pieces to a small plate and set aside.
Pour the melted bacon fat into a 1/4 cup measure, and add enough butter to bring the total volume up to the quarter cup mark. (This is messy and can be a bit annoying, but this means that instead of discarding the bacon fat, you are using it as the base for your white sauce and therefore getting ALL THE FLAVOUR so it is totally worth it).
Pour the bacon fat and butter back into the saucepan and melt over a low heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook for a minute or two until bubbling and a little thickened. Remove from the heat, whisk in the milk, then return to the heat. Cook, whisking and stirring, until the sauce is thickened. (You don't have to whisk constantly, but just make sure you stir it often enough so that it doesn't catch and burn on the pan). Whisk in the mustard and paprika. Tip in the mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook for a further minute or so. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Place the drained pasta back into the pot that you cooked it in. Add the sweet potato mash and stir gently to combine, pouring in some of the starchy cooking water if required to help it mush through. Add the bacon and crumble in the feta and stir to combine.
Tip the pasta into the pan with the mushroomy white sauce. Add the grated tasty cheese, and stir to disperse evenly.
Spoon a third of the mixture into a 25cm square baking dish, then add half the spinach leaves. Repeat with another third of the pasta mixture, then the remaining spinach leaves, and finish with the pasta mixture.
Sprinkle the top with a little paprika, and the extra feta and tasty cheese. Snip the sage leaves into fine strips and sprinkle over.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and piping hot.

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment below! Tag me on Instagram @sarahcooksblog and hashtag #sarahcooksblog

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  1. I love adding vegetables to mac and cheese because I find it too heavy otherwise! you've reminded me that I need to make another batch of pumpkin mac and cheese!



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