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Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese

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?

mac and cheese with fontina and bacon

Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese

Yield: 4-6 servings

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta one to two minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the bacon pieces in half vertically, then into small bite-sized pieces. Cook until crispy. Then drain, and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Serve immediately, sprinkling each portion with bacon.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 574Total Fat 36gSaturated Fat 19gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 106mgSodium 1278mgCarbohydrates 36gFiber 2gSugar 7gProtein 27g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love it if you let me know what you think! Snap a photo and tag me on Instagram at @goodlifeeats with the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

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.
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Vicki

Thursday 21st of July 2011

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

Dianna

Tuesday 12th of July 2011

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

carri

Thursday 30th of June 2011

This looks perfect. Love your pictures

Barbara

Thursday 17th of March 2011

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

Kendra

Saturday 5th of March 2011

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.