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Mac 'n' Cheese Casserole with Smoked Paprika-Bacon-Garlic Breadcrumbs

Pair with Carneros Chardonnay


1 stick butter
8 tablespoons flour          
pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 cups milk, warmed

3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Jack cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


1 lb. hot cooked pasta (your favorite shape), cooked a little past “al dente”


2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
½ cup cooked bacon pieces, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped


Make cheese sauce:

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, about 2 minutes. Next, add the milk in a slow steady stream and use a whisk to blend evenly. Add the cayenne pepper. Continue to whisk gently as the sauce thickens, taking care to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pot.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook 2-3 minutes, whisking slowly. Remove pan from heat and add the grated cheese in two or three portions, blending it in each time. Remove the sauce from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir sauce occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. If sauce needs to sit for a few minutes, cover the pot with its lid.

Make crumb topping:

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat then add the olive oil. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir and cook for a minute or two or until the garlic is cooked. Turn off heat and add the bread crumbs and bacon to the pan. Stir crumbs carefully to incorporate the seasonings evenly. Set aside till needed.

Finish recipe:

Place the hot cooked pasta into a large mixing bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir gently to blend evenly.  Pour the pasta mixture into a large casserole pan, cover with foil, and place into a pre-heated 350°F oven. Bake 40-45 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and thoroughly heated. Next, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top. Return the casserole to the oven for 8 -10 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Sprinkle the chopped fresh parsley over the casserole. Serve hot. Makes 8-10 servings.


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