Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Peas

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Friends are good to have. They make for good company, play tennis with you and usually have a TV for Mad Men viewing. Since our TV situation is so grim, we've been watching the show at our friend's house for a few seasons now. One day we just invited ourselves, and a new tradition was born - occasional Sunday night Mad Men parties. Usually this means having beers and watching the show, but recently, we've stepped it up by adding dinner. Our first Mad Men meal was a decadent Mac and Cheese, with cheddar, Hungarian pepper bacon and peas.

I wasn't in the mood to follow a recipe, so instead I decided to use the sauce technique from the recent veggie and cheese dip, and apply it to this macaroni bake. The cheese sauce is not only easy, it's also fool-proof. And bacon always adds a ton of flavor. The peas were a whimsical touch. I wanted something green and round in there. They did the trick, adding a fresh sweetness, and lightening up this cheesy dish. The general consensus was, this was a delicious version, and we should always have dinner with Mad Men. The host, who did zero cooking, said it best, "These dinners work out very well for me."
Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon & Peas
Serves 6

1 lb of pasta, something fun shaped
1 1/2 cups of cheddar, shredded
1 1/4 cups of milk
2 tbsp flour
pepper bacon, I used about a 1/2 cup
1 cup peas
olive oil
bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1) Cook your pasta according to package instructions. I usually under-cook by a couple minutes, since there's baking involved.
2) Cook bacon, and set aside. Hungarian bacon is not very fatty, so once I removed the bacon, I added some olive oil to the pan, and then the flour, making a roux. Then I slowly added the milk, stirring frequently.
3) Keep stirring your milk sauce, until it thickens noticeably, maybe 5 minutes, turn off heat, and add your cheese (reserving a handful for the top) and stir until it melts.
4) To your sauce, add the bacon, peas, and pasta, taste and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything thoroughly, and top with breadcrumbs and the remaining cheddar, sprinkle with paprika.
5) Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden.

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