“Macaroni cheese is a favourite comfort food for lots of people, and this version is inspired by Daisy’s Nan, Betty. Daisy was in the army, and she would always look forward to having this when she came home. It’s a closely guarded family recipe – and you’ll see why when you taste it! It’s cheesy, it’s gooey, and it’s packed with herby sautéed mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, streaky bacon and three types of cheese. If you want to go for the fully Betty effect, serve up with chipolata sausages alongside. ”
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Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
Finely slice the mushrooms and tomatoes, and pick the thyme leaves. Place in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden and cooked down, then remove to a plate, leaving the pan on the heat.
Slice the bacon into thin strips and cook in the pan for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
Add 1 tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil to the pan, scatter in the breadcrumbs, then pick, finely chop and stir in the parsley. Cook for 1 further minute, tossing regularly, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Cook the macaroni in a pan of boiling salted water for 4 minutes (it will continue to cook in the oven), then drain.
Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Slowly add the milk to the pan, splash-by-splash, stirring constantly to avoid any lumps, then switch the heat off.
Grate the cheeses into the sauce, seasoning with a big pinch of black pepper, then stir in the macaroni.
Transfer half the macaroni to a 20cm x 28cm baking dish, then layer over half the tomatoes and mushrooms. Repeat the layers, then top with the bacon breadcrumbs.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. If you’re going all out, now is a good time to cook the chipolatas according to packet instructions.
Leave the macaroni cheese to stand for a few minutes before serving alongside the golden chipolatas, if using.