Table Talk: One recipe for many tastes

Melanie Feehan

When I was a young girl I would often dream about my future life as a mom. I knew for certain I wanted a large family. Being an only child can have that effect on a person. My children of my daydreams were very charming, neatly dressed, talented little beings that loved everything I cooked for them. Clearly, this was just a daydream.

Eighteen years ago I gave birth to my first son, Aidan. In the beginning things went along swimmingly. As a toddler he happily gobbled up pasta, bits of fruits and veggies and just about any protein I put in front of him. Such an open eater, I thought. And then he learned to talk.

One of his first food proclamations? No onions!

I’m not sure if it was the texture or the taste, but he couldn’t eat them regardless. As an Italian woman it’s really hard to not cook with onions. Therefore, I had to hide them in my meals by pureeing them. The things we do to get our kids to eat.

Luckily, my next child, Michael, came out with no food aversions at all. Quite the contrary, I think I birthed the next Anthony Bourdain, minus the drugs, liquor and smoking.

But then Shannon came around and her sister 10 months later. Yes, you read that right. Two girls, 10 months apart – and the kicker? They both detest carbohydrates. If I thought an onion aversion was hard as an Italian, having kids that wouldn’t eat pasta was downright disastrous.

So, along the way I had to make some concessions. While I refused to become a short-order cook for six different palates, I still wanted to serve my family foods that they would enjoy.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today speaks to that philosophy – BLT Macaroni and Cheese. One of the very few pasta dishes my girls will eat because it’s covered with two of their favorite foods – cheese and bacon! And as a nod to my eldest son, leeks instead of onions.

You’ve got to pick and choose your battles, you know?

BLT Mac-n-Cheese (Bacon, Leeks and Tomato)

10 oz radiatori

6 Tbsp butter

5 Tbsp flour

1/2 Tbsp powdered mustard

4 cups milk

6oz fontina, cubed

4 oz white cheddar, shredded

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

3 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and diced

3 slices thick cut slab bacon

1 leek, finely diced

Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat and cook for several minutes.

Add flour and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add mustard, milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and allow to cook for another three minutes.

In a skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from fat and crumble bacon, but reserve 1 Tbsp of bacon fat.

Cook leeks in 1 Tbsp of reserved fat until translucent.

Add cooked bacon, leeks and tomatoes to cheese mixture. Stir gently to combine.

Grease a 2 quart casserole dish. Pour in pasta and then cover pasta with cheese/bacon/tomato sauce. Gently stir to combine pasta and sauce.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.