Torchiette with Bacon, Beer & Cheese Sauce

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Step 1: Preparing Your Mise en Place

Preparing Your Mise en Place

To start your mise en place, first bring a pot of cold water to a boil to cook the pasta.

Dice the onion and émincé the garlic. Finely dice the red pepper and roughly chop the thyme. Next, dice the bacon or cut it into lardons. Lastly, measure out the butter, flour, milk and beer, and gather the seasonings.

  • 2 tbsp white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 red pepper
  • pinch fresh thyme
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup beer (can substitute with milk)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • white pepper (to taste)

Step 2: Making the Sauce | Mornay Sauce

Making the Sauce | Mornay Sauce

Heat a heavy sauce pan over medium heat and add the butter and bacon. Let the bacon cook until the fat renders (melts). The bacon should almost be cooked but not browned. Then add the onion, garlic and red pepper and gently cook, turning the heat down to medium-low to avoid any browning. Cook until the onion and garlic begin to soften and release their flavors. Then season with the paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra heat, if desired.

Next, sprinkle the mixture with the flour and stir to form a roux. Let this cook gently for about 2 minutes, being careful not to let the bottom scorch or burn. Then add the beer and stir to combine. Add the milk a bit at a time to temper it. This will prevent lumps from forming. Continue until all of the milk has been incorporated. Finally, add the thyme.

Turn the heat up to medium, if needed, to bring the sauce up to a gentle simmer. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Stir occasionally and let cook for about 10 minutes or so. While the sauce cooks, go ahead and cook the pasta.

You now have a flavored variation of a classic béchamel sauce.

Step 3: Cooking the Pasta

Cooking the Pasta

To cook the pasta, add the salt to the boiling water and stir. Then add the pasta and stir to prevent it from sticking together. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package. For this dish, the pasta should not be al dente, as you want a soft texture.

While the pasta cooks, grate the cheese and stir the sauce occasionally. Test the pasta and once it is just cooked through, reserve a bit of the cooking water (in case you need to thin the sauce out later).

Next, turn off the heat and add some cold water to the pot of pasta. This will slow the cooking process so you can finish the sauce.

  • salt (1 tsp per L/qt of water)
  • 400 g torchietti pasta (about 13 oz)
  • 4 oz aged cheddar (2 cups)

Step 4: Finishing the Cheese Sauce

Finishing the Cheese Sauce

To finish the sauce, turn off the heat and temper in the grated cheddar by adding it a little bit at a time. Stir each time until the cheese melts. By adding a bit of cheese at a time, you prevent the sauce from splitting. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • white pepper (to taste)

Step 5: Finishing the Dish

Finishing the Dish

To finish the dish, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Then pour the sauce over top and gently fold everything together. If the sauce seems a bit too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of the reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning, serve immediately and enjoy.

Notes

Smoked paprika adds a very unique flavor to this dish. You may want to add a bit at a time, as it can easily dominate the dish. You can always add more, but you can't take it away.

Depending on the type of beer you use, make sure to match an appropriate cheese. If you use a darker or bitter beer use a sharp cheese to stand up to the flavor. If using a lighter beer, use a mild-tasting cheese.

Renée S

Had to try it!

I received this email today and was really craving a bit of comfort food - so the perfect fit for our night. During a walk on the west vancouver seawall, my mom called and I told her about the recipe I was going to try. I invited her to come over for dinner, but, with the rainy west coast day, she just wanted to tuck in at home for the night. Two hours later, she called me to say that she could not stop thinking about the dinner I was going to prepare and wanted to take a cab over!

This was incredible! I must admit I was tempted to thin the sauce in the final phases with more beer not the pasta water. Hmm. Anyway, it was a hit at our home and a great dinner for a rainy west-coast night.

Thank you, thank you - a true delight.

Björn K

Björn

I tried this yesterday, but had to improvise a bit with the ingredients, using what I had in the fridge. I used farfalle pasta, a Leffe (beer) and a mix of Gouda and Parmesan, which was a bit too light as the taste of the beer was quite powerful. Loved the effect of the cayenne, gave the dish a nice edge.

Was fun to experiment like this, using some of the techniques I've picked up in the Cooking School. I've always been very reluctant to deviate from any recipe in the slightest, so this was a very liberating experience!

Björn K

Title goes here...

Right, and I should have read the titles of the form fields more closely. Thought that was where I had to put my name :P

Chris W

Alternative Cheese for Lactose Sensitive?

My wife was recently diagnosed with being lactose sensitive but can have goat cheese and just about any other thing that doesn't come from a cow. What would you suggest if I want to make this for her (she loves mac and cheese and really misses it) and cant use any sort of dairy from a cow.

Tony M
Rouxbe Staff

Alternatives

You can substitute chicken or vegetable stock for the milk, so you'd be making a veloute instead of a bechamel, and you can make the roux with olive oil or margarine. I'd add some spices (paprika) and herbs (thyme maybe), and even finish the veloute with some Dijon mustard. The goat cheese would be a charm. So: roux with oil or margarine + stock + goat cheee + some yummy flavors = one wonderful Mac and Cheese. Hope this helps. Let us know how it turns out.

Kevin W

This was great

I made this yesterday for a New Year's party I had and it was a huge hit! I loved the flavor the smoked paprika adds, along with the smokey bacon I used, nice combo.
Thanks for the recipe!

Woody J

Talk about Comfort Food

What a wonderful dish for that picky eater that doesn't want anything exotic however the taste is very complex. No problem to make. Wonderful!

Dora A

Different Pasta Flavor...Needs Something

Great dish with great smoked flavor, new sauce for a good pasta dish, easy to make, recommend more peppers, onions and more bacon to the dish to add some texture or variety to the dish, a good party dish or appetizer but struggles as a main dish (maybe except for kids) a easy good tasting recipe...

Madeleine S

A Couple Questions...

!.) How terrible would it be to leave out the red pepper? It is not my favorite flavor. Should I adjust the other spices to compensate?
2.) Could I use pancetta instead of bacon? I know there is not much of a difference but still....

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: A Couple Of Questions About Substitutions

Feel free to leave out the red peppers...they are there more for color really. No need to adjust the spices. I personally like a little less smoked paprika but that is totally up to you (most people like it just as is).

As for pancetta instead of bacon...go for it...should be good.

Funny that you should inquire about this recipe, as I have been craving this dish all day...maybe tomorrow! Enjoy!

Peter J

Thanks Tony and Dawn

I was a little hesitant about the red bell pepper in this, but made a smaller tester... ultimately used some high quality mild ancho powder instead and elected to add slight colour with frenched scallion. Yes, I used regular smoked bacon. Nice recipe. A keeper in my book!

Mildred C

Aged cheddar

Hi!
Could anyone tell me how would I know if it is an aged cheddar.

Thanks.

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: How to Tell if it's Aged Cheddar?

It should be marked on the label. If you are buying it from a local cheese shop and there is no label, they should be able to tell you. Cheers!

Yolanda R

This looks so good

im going to make it today, on a rainy night, hope it comes out good.=]

Patricia G

Smoked Paprika

How critical is smoked paprika to this dish? Sad to say, I only have "regular" paprika in my spice cabinet.

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Smoked Paprika

You can use regular paprika in this dish. In fact, you can even leave it out all together if you like. Cheers!

Sonya E

I wanna try this!

Oohh how I'd love to try this! Looks really decadent!

Lori A

Re: Alternative Cheese for Lactose Sensitive

Hi Chris W, I am new to Rouxbe but not new to lactose sensitivity! May I suggest a delicious mozzarella or cheddar goat cheese made by Woolwich Dairy? http://www.woolwichdairy.com/ La Grande Famille http://www.lagrandefamille.ca/en/marques-fromage-chevre.html makes a fabulous aged cheddar. It's called Le Chèvre Noir. It comes in a black package of 130 g of cheese. Delicious!

There are other animal-based cheeses, like sheep, goat and ewe. When buying them, be careful to read the ingredients (I'm sure your wife is used to this by now, milk is everywhere-even in hot dogs) because some still contain cow's milk products. I see this recipe calls for butter too; I have been using margarine but now have discovered goat's butter by the company Liberty, which has a whole line of goat products: 2% and 3.5% milk, crème fraîche, yogurt, Greek-style yogurt.

After trying these "cheddar flavoured" rice slices, which had the taste and texture of cardboard (not that I have ever eaten cardboard), alternative animal products has been close to a miracle for me. European markets tend to carry goat, sheep and ewe products more than your typical / standard North American chain store. However, I had great success ordering my goat products from my local IGA.

Ellison K

Proper Pasta-Sauce Proportions

I am trying to make a basic macaroni and cheese using a similar cheese sauce from a family recipe but cannot get the right proportion of pasta with the sauce to prevent the dish from becoming to dry after baking. Is there a basic rule of thumb to use when combining pasta and cheese sauce to prevent this?

Tony M
Rouxbe Staff

Ratios

Not really as too many variables involved here: oven temp, crumbs used, shallowness of casserole, type of pasta and degree of cooking.

If too dry I suggest thinning the sauce with some pasta water before baking, and making sure you broil rather than bake - much quicker and less drying. If you love the cheese sauce, use less pasta as in this case it just might be more about the sauce.

Tricia R

Easy and Delicious

I made a double batch of this tonight to bring to a family with a mom who just had surgery. They are going to love it! I saved a bit for ourselves for dinner tomorrow night too. The mis en place is key since making the sauce goes quickly. I'm glad I had everything measured, chopped and ready to go, which made the recipe easy.

Charlena P

Cheese to Sauce Ratio

I just want to be sure, but the same ratios apply to making this cheese sauce as to making cream of broccoli soup? For example, 1 tbsp of fat to 1 tbsp of flour and 1 cup of milk to 1 cup of cheese.

Also, I was taught to thin out my sauce with milk. Does it make a difference whether water or milk is used?

Kimberley S
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Cheese Sauce Ratio

No, the same ratios do not necessarily apply. It all depends on whether you want a thicker or thinner consistency for a particular dish. A soup ratio may be too thin for mac n' cheese but, again, it depends. This is where you need to experiment a bit to see what works for your tastes.

You might find the lesson on How to Make Bechamel helpful and also the lesson on How to Make Roux-Based Soups. Milk can definitely be used to thin out a bechamel sauce. There is no fat or flavor in water, so yes, it will make a difference in the flavor and texture of the sauce depending on how much is used. Cheers!

Charlena P

Baked Mac n Cheese

When baking mac n cheese should the cheese sauce be thinner to prevent the dish from drying out?

Kimberley S
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Baked Mac n Cheese

Yes, it should be looser but not super "soupy" so the dish is not runny in the end. You'll want the sauce to cling somewhat to the pasta. It's one of those things that you'll have to try out and tweak to see what ratio works for you.

For this particular recipe, you might want the sauce a bit thinner if you plan to bake it. Cheers!

Mark M

type of milk

Hey there,

I was just wondering if whole milk will work with this recipe as I did not see anywhere where it was specified.

Thanks
Mark

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Type of Milk for Making Bechamel

Yes, whole milk, as well as 2% etc. can all be used to make a bechamel. The higher the fat content, the richer (and higher in fat) the sauce will be. Cheers!

Kris S

Beer matching & chili heat vs cayenne

Absolutely best variation on Mac and Cheese I have made. Not only did I practice my sauce, I also made a great comfort meal on a very cold snowy day in Canada. I used a local Amber Ale - Flying Monkeys and we enjoyed that same beer with the meal. I didnt have the pasta recommended so used a really good dried spelt penne and it was delicious. Also didnt have any cayenne on had so used my favorite ingredient dried red chilies and it was quite hot, which works great for me but may deter some. The chili heat with the rich cheese sauce - I used Balderson one year old cheddar-is really fantastic though. There was only two of us, and my partner ate the lions share, but there are no leftovers. Probably not a good thing, but if comfort was the aim (and it was) then all is well in the world. This is the first practice recipe for me from rouxbe, and I have to say you have transformed my lumpy bechamel world into something I now feel in full control of. Who knew with a few pointers it really was that easy...no more need to dirty my emursion blender! I am really a chili fan, can you tell me what the difference might be using dried chili vs cayenne in a sauce? I seem to like the chili heat better, but cannot put my finger on why or how to best describe the reason. Would be curious to know what or if there is a difference in how they each perform in a heated sauce.

Kimberley S
Rouxbe Staff

RE: Beer matching & chili heat vs cayenne

Sounds like you had an awesome meal and good job on the bechamel and working in your substitutions. I can't really say either about the heat from different chilies...there are several books on chilies and spices as there are so many different kinds. The best way is to keep experimenting with the ingredients you have on hand to determine what you like best. Maybe an expert on chilies/spices can pipe in :-) Again, great job! Glad you liked the dish. Cheers!

Jody H

Beer and Bacon Heaven

We enjoy beer and bacon so this recipe fit the bill for tonight's dinner. Forgot the noodles and didn't want to return to the store so we made homemade dumplings (the size of gnocchi), also forgot the milk so used heavy cream, added a bit of Serrano Peppers and used Great White Ale for beer. Served it with a side of asparagus. Very comforting and delicious dish! Cooking along with your video made it an easy first attempt at making this type of sauce. Thank you. :D

Christopher C

Substitute for beer?

Some people in the household are not beer fans (shame on them)...any suggestions for substitutes?

Thanks!

Joe  G
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Substitute for Beer?

If there are people that simply do not like the taste of beer, I imagine that they would not even noticed it; however, if they cannot have beer then I would suggest that you just leave it out. It will still be a delicious mac 'n' cheese without it. Cheers!

Christopher C

Types of Cheese

What are suggestions for cheese? Any white cheddar?

Funny the recipe doesn't list the pasta or cheese as part of the recipe.

Christopher C

Nevermind

Nevermind...the last comment - didn't see that recipe has those ingredients listed in subsequent steps.

So, will any aged white cheddar do? The older the better?

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Type of Cheese for Mac 'n' Cheese

If you like a strong or aged cheese flavored mac n cheese, then by all means you can use a nice aged cheddar cheese. Cheers!

Christopher C

Made It Today!

Awesome.

Used half cream half milk instead of just milk. Doubled the bacon.

Made it with a seared pan-fried pork chop on the side.

Everyone loved it!

Mark M

paprika

Hey there,

the recipie calls for a1/2 teaspoon of paprika, but in the video it appears there adding quite a bit more.

Just wondering if the recipe is correct with 1/2 tsp of paprika

thanks
Mark

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Paprika in Recipe

Good eye Mark; however, we made a note at the bottom of the recipe, which says "Smoked paprika adds a very unique flavor to this dish. You may want to add a bit at a time, as it can easily dominate the dish. You can always add more, but you can't take it away."

The person who is the author of this particular recipe is quite a fan of smoked paprika, which is why there was quite a bit added.

If you really like smoked paprika, feel free to add a bit more. Cheers!

Edward W

white wine

hi
insread of beer can we add white wine ?
thanks

Ken R
Rouxbe Staff

Adding Wine

Hi Edward- You could use white wine instead of beer, but that would really alter the flavor profile of the dish.

If you do want to try it, you'll likely want to reduce the white wine a bit (by about half or so) before proceeding, or the sauce may be too bright and acidic. Let us know what you decide to do. Enjoy!

Brad C

Baked Bummer

I made my first béchamel into my first Mornay today. It was also the first time I paid close attention to seasoning ever. Indeed I was surprised to see how the initial flat taste of the béchamel came alive after a couple pinches of salt, all the while not tasting salty at all. I finished it with a liaison and turned it into a mornay with great success.

I mixed it with pasta, peppered bacon, and peas and it was fantastic as it was. Then I baked it, sans broiler (which cannot be used on my oven).

I was heartbroken to see my mornay absorbed and disappeared even after adding pasta water to adjust the mix. Ah, well. Cook & learn. Next time: Much less shallow dish, more sauce, and maybe just forget the bake. :)

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Baked Bummer

First off, let me say, nice job on your practice. Sounds like you really learned some great things.

As for baking with a béchamel or mornay, you generally need to start with a thinner sauce. Especially with a mornay as it already has the egg in it, which is a thickener.

Next time, perhaps try making a thinner sauce, baking it on a lower heat and/or for not as long and see how that goes for you. Good luck and keep up the great work. Cheers!

Mark M

LEAVING OUT BACON

HEY THERE,

I realize bacon adds a lot of good flavour,

Just wondering if you had any possible suggestions if theres a vegetarian in the house for still adding some good flavour if I leave out the bacon?

thanks so much
Mark

Dawn T
Rouxbe Staff

Re: Leaving Out the Bacon

By all means you can leave out the bacon. If there are some that still want bacon, you could always cook some on the side and let them garnish there pasta with it. But again, this pasta will still be good without the bacon. Cheers!

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