Killer mac and cheese with bacon: Anne Burrell's flavorful recipe for Super Bowl Sunday

Anne Burrell's killer mac & cheese with bacon.
Anne Burrell's killer mac & cheese with bacon.
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Anne Burrell knows good mac and cheese.

The host of Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America" tells USA TODAY that she gets excited every time she sees the creamy pasta dish on the menu or at a buffet. Sometimes though the offerings turn out to be a bit of a letdown.

Her recipe for killer mac and cheese is anything but, she says.

"I tried to make it really flavorful because that's what happens a lot with mac and cheese – it's either a little too dry or it's not creamy or not flavorful enough," she explains. By adding bacon, Dijon mustard and hot sauce, along with a combination of various cheeses, "there's no way for this not to be super zesty and flavorful," she adds.

The shell shaped pasta helps, too, holding the cheesy goodness inside making for a flavorful, explosive bite.

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The key, though, is to salt the pasta water.

"When you are cooking the pasta … make sure that your pasta water is adequately salted," Burrell says. "It should be salty like the ocean (water) because that makes a huge effect on the final dish."

Hot tip: Any dish that needs to absorb water to cook needs to be cooked in well-seasoned water in order to take on more flavor, she explains.

Burrell shared her recipe for her "killer" mac and cheese with bacon with USA TODAY. Check it out:

Killer mac & cheese with bacon

Time: About 50 minutes

Makes: 6 to 8 servings


  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 onion, cut into ¼-inch dice Kosher salt

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 quart whole milk, plus more as needed

  • 1 pound shells or other short pasta

  • 2 cups freshly grated Cheddar cheese

  • 2 cups freshly grated Fontina cheese

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste


  1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan, add the bacon, and bring the pan to medium heat; stir the bacon occasionally. After 6 to 8 minutes, once it's brown and crispy,  remove it from the pan then drain it on paper towels, and reserve that deliciousness. Do not discard the bacon fat!

  2. Add the butter and onion to the pan with the fat, season with salt, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the onion is soft and aromatic. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture looks like wet sand. Slowly whisk in the milk, season with salt, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer; cook over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes more or until the mixture is slightly thicker than heavy cream.

  3. In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package suggest. Taste it: It should be toothsome with just a little nugget of hard pasta still in the center – this is al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve.

  4. Add the Cheddar, Fontina, and Parmigiano to the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Add the mustard and a few shakes of Tabasco; taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, adding a little more milk if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in the cooked bacon and pasta. The mixture should be very creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking dish or ramekins and reheat in the oven at 375°F.

Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Bowl 2023: Try chef Anne Burrell's killer mac and cheese recipe