Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese

Kid Friendly Recipes, Main Dish, Pasta | 40 comments

As I sit down to write this the snow is falling and wind blowing. I can’t help but think how perfect Macaroni and Cheese is for a day like today and I’m definitely tempted to make a change to our meal plan tonight.

Without any fontina on hand, I won’t be making this Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese, but I do have several other cheeses stashed in my refrigerator door and can easily whip up a new creation using these fun tips.

fontina shells and cheese with bacon

3 Steps to Fancy Mac n Cheese

It’s time to get creative in the kitchen. Try these three, simple ways towards creative macaroni and cheese recipes. Sure we all love the traditional recipe, but it’s fun to mix things up once in a while.

Use Different Pasta Shapes

Embrace your inner child, or appeal to your own children with fun and different pasta shapes. Just because it’s “Macaroni” and Cheese, doesn’t mean you have to actually use macaroni pasta. In fact, I rarely do. I love shells, rotini, penne, wagon wheels and more.

Fancy Up the Cheese

I love to experiment with different cheeses in my mac n cheese. Fontina is accented by Mascarpone and Parmesan Cheese creates a rich, velvety sauce in this recipe. You could dream up infinite cheese combinations for your sauce.

Lacking inspiration?  Check out the Cheesecyclopedia for the wide variety of available cheeses. Then, look up some of your favorites cheeses in The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity to find complimentary combinations.

Add a Few Mix-Ins

Adding accent meats and vegetables turns macaroni and cheese into a delicious, one pot meal with lots of flavor and color. I like to add steamed broccoli or chopped baby spinach to my mac n cheese. My two favorite meat mix-ins are ham and bacon. They both go so well with cheesy sauce, but experiment with others as well. 

mac and cheese with fontina and bacon

I love the buttery and earthy flavor of fonitina cheese. It pairs deliciously with smoky applewood bacon and a bit of chopped baby spinach. I think you’ll agree that the ingredients in this Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese take your traditional shells and cheese to a whole new level.

Do you have a favorite non-traditional Macaroni and Cheese recipe? What is your favorite way to dress up this childhood classic recipe?

Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese

Print Save Recipe


1 lb. medium shell pasta
3 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
3 ounces mascarpone
5 ounces fontina, grated
1 ounce parmesan, finely grated
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, according to personal preference
6 ounces applewood bacon
3 1/2 ounces fresh baby spinach, chopped


Cook pasta one to two minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the bacon pieces in half vertically, then into small bite sized pieces. Cook until crispy. Then drain, and set aside.

In a large French or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat till golden. Slowly whisk in the milk while cooking over medium heat.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, whisking until melted and creamy. Then, whisk in the fontina and parmesan until melted and creamy. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and salt (if desired). Bring to a slow simmer, and then stir in the pasta and spinach. Cook just until heated through

Serve immediately, sprinkling each portion with bacon.

This post was sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. They’ve collaborated with 30 different food bloggers to create 30 inventive recipes for the classic dish — Macaroni & Cheese.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

Email  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

  • 1
    Katie @ Haute Apple Pie - February 02, 2011 @ 7:06 am

    Yum! This looks delish for a snow day like today! Bookmarking this one.


  • 2
    Blog is the New Black - February 02, 2011 @ 7:09 am

    Drool! This IS perfect for a day like today…


  • 3
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies - February 02, 2011 @ 7:44 am

    Those are some beautiful bits of bacon and pasta. *print* :)


  • 4
    Miko's Girl - February 02, 2011 @ 7:57 am

    My girls’ favorite mac-n-cheese recipe is from the New Moosewood Cookbook which I deconstruct. The recipe uses cottage cheese, and buttermilk. It also calls for mixing in sauteed cruciferous veggies with dill and garlic – I serve the veggies on the side.

    In a fridge clean out lately, I took all the cheeses I found, shredded them, and put the mixture in the fridge. I add this cheese mix to quiche and to mac-n-cheese.


  • 5
    Cookbook Queen - February 02, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    This looks absolutely amazing. I would kill for some right now. For breakfast.


  • 6
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction - February 02, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    This looks so incredibly delicious! I love that there is marcapone in it!


  • 7
    March - February 02, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    Great idea for tonight – thanks!


  • 8
    Shawna - February 02, 2011 @ 9:08 am

    drool – and bookmarked! thanks for sharing:o)


  • 9
    Tracy - February 02, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    Wonderful tips for fancying-up mac and cheese! I just love to get creative with old favorites like this!


  • 10
    Fuji Mama - February 02, 2011 @ 10:33 am

    My girls will LOVE this! Thank you!


  • 11
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - February 02, 2011 @ 10:36 am

    Fontina is one of my favorite cheeses, and it’s so perfect in mac and cheese! Looks like a great dish. Love the tips, too!


  • 12
    Wenderly - February 02, 2011 @ 10:56 am

    My girls would flip for this!


  • 13
    naomi - February 02, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    Fontina is one of my favorite cheeses to use. Although a close second is Gruyere. Here’s my favorite secret ingredient: shredded apples. I love the subtle sweetness it imparts to break up the cheese flavoring.


  • 14
    Suzanna - February 02, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

    Your pictures are amazing, and this version of Mac and Cheese is so colorful! I’m going to link to your post on my blog. thanks! :)


  • 15
    Amanda @SomethingSavory - February 02, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

    Looks good! I love mac and cheese, especially the fancier versions. This looks like a great recipe to try. And lovely photo too, love the layering!


  • 16
    jane - February 02, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    i haven’t tried fancying it up with fontina. thanks for the tip. and bacon is a must. fo sho.


  • 17
    Peggy - February 02, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    This sounds like my kind of mac and cheese! I love discovering new and unique versions!


  • 18
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - February 02, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

    I love that you’ve added mascarpone, that always makes everything so nice and creamy!


  • 19
    melissa @IWasBornToCook - February 02, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    some of my favorite ingredients! Looks delicious!


  • 20
    Aimee @ Simple Bites - February 02, 2011 @ 8:48 pm

    Can I curl up with a big bowl of this, please? All this snow has got me craving comfort food something fierce.

    Great tips! I need to change up our mac & cheese more often.


  • 21
    Kristen - February 02, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    We love just plain old Mac & Cheese around here, but I’m thinking adding some bacon sounds like a grand idea!


  • 22
    Lisa {Smart Food & Fit} - February 03, 2011 @ 4:38 am

    This is the ultimate comfort food. I love fontina cheese!


  • 23
    Happy When Not Hungry - February 03, 2011 @ 6:58 am

    Wow this looks delicious! I love to put pancetta in my homemade macaroni and use elbows or shells. Thanks for sharing!


  • 24
    Olivia - February 03, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

    I am SOOOO trying this with veggie bacon!!! YUM!! You definitely found the passage into my heart; warm pasta fontina and spinach..yums:)


  • 25
    Robyn | Add a Pinch - February 03, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

    Such a great idea, Katie. Love this recipe.


  • 26
    Damaris @Kitchen Corners - February 03, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    I should try these now that my son decided that spinach won’t kill him.


  • 27
    sara - February 03, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

    Ooooooooh, this looks so so good! Love the idea of changing up macaroni and cheese with fancy ingredients…yum!!


  • 28
    ann - February 04, 2011 @ 2:58 am

    I’m old school when it comes to mac and cheese but this looks fantastic!


  • 29
    Kerstin - February 04, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

    Now that’s my kind of mac&cheese – looks completely addicting!


  • 30
    Becky at VintageMixer - February 08, 2011 @ 9:30 am

    Looks like the perfect comfort meal. Maybe I’ll make this for my husband on Valentines Day!


  • 31
    Krystyna - February 08, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Just made this last night with my fiance. With the two of us at the wheel (one person for pasta, bacon, and cleaning up as we go and another for the sauce) we got done in 30 minutes. Mostly because I burned the first batch of bacon; otherwise I don’t think it would have taken as long. We loved it! Definitely making it again!


  • 32
    Michele - February 14, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    This looks amazing! Do you think it would freeze well?



  • 33
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle - February 15, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

    Wow, seriously love this. It deserves a much more sophisticated name than Mac and Cheese!


  • 34
    Brian @ A Thought For Food - February 16, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    Now THIS is comfort food! Give me a bowl of this, a blanket, and a rainy afternoon… and I’ll be in heaven.


  • 35
    jen - February 19, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I made this tonight and my picky 2 year old and husband are gobbling it up. I used “transportation” shape pasta instead of shells – makes it fun for the little girl. Also, only had 2% milk on hand but it still tastes great. Yum, yum!


  • 36
    Kendra - March 05, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

    Made this tonight for my husband and I. Made it with skim milk since that’s what I had on hand, and it was still wonderfully creamy. I know I’m supposed to say the bacon was the best part (and it was awesome) but the spinach just went so well with the fontina, I loved it.


  • 37
    Barbara - March 17, 2011 @ 4:11 am

    I’m heading to the store, THIS is what’s for dinner tonight!


  • 38
    carri - June 30, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    This looks perfect. Love your pictures


  • 39
    Dianna - July 12, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the recipe post! Just made it the other day and it turned out fabulous. This one will definitely be a keeper.


  • 40
    Vicki - July 21, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    Yum, yum, yum!! I am totally making this for dinner tomorrow!


Leave a Comment