Shells and Cheese with Bacon
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound small dried pasta shells
- ½ pound thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
- ½ medium onion, medium diced
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons fresh dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- pinch nutmeg
- 4 cups grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
- 3 cups grated gruyere cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 2½ cups fresh bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook shells until al dente and
Preheat oven to 375°F. and butter a 3- to 4-quart gratin dish or other
shallow baking dish.
Heat a heavy large saucepot over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until
golden brown. Add onions to pan and cook until onions are tender, about 5
minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.
Whisk in milk gradually and bring to a boil. Simmer sauce, whisking
occasionally, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add mustard, cayenne,
and nutmeg and whisk in 3 cups cheddar and 2 cups gruyere. When
cheese is melted season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl stir together shells, herbs and sauce and adjust seasoning, ifnecessary. Transfer to prepared dish. In a medium bowl stir together
bread crumbs, melted butter and remaining 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup
gruyere; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese breadcrumb mixture
evenly over pasta. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Turn oven on broil during last 3 minutes of cooking, if desired, to achieve a
deep golden brown color on breadcrumbs. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and