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Look who came to the holiday party all prettied up, slathered in a rich, creamy cheese sauce, topped with crisp bacon and crushed Ritz? It’s a grand Holiday Mac & Cheese Pimiento Casserole!

Everyone’s favorite basic macaroni and cheese can be made festive, too. For the next holiday event, make this your signature dish. It’s simple, easy and perfect!

Holiday Mac N’ Cheese Pimiento Casserole with Bacon
Servings : 6 to 8

Ingredients:

· 6- 7 cups cooked elbow macaroni, drained (about 4 cups uncooked)
· 2 Tablespoons corn or vegetable oil
· ½ cup red pepper, seeded, sliced in 2-inch strips
· ½ cup or a stick of butter or margarine
· ½ cup flour
· 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
· 1 box (8 ounce or 227 g.) cream cheese
· 3 cups heavy cream, or add ½ cup more if casserole dries up
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
· 1 teaspoon garlic powder
· 1 and ½ cups crushed Ritz crackers (or saltines)
· 1 cup of crushed bacon bits

Directions:

· Cook the elbow macaroni in a large pot of boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and put aside.

· Separately, cook a package of the bacon strips in a skillet over medium high heat. This should take about 10 minutes. When bacon is cooked, drain on paper towels. Crush in small bits and set aside for topping later on.

· In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the cooking oil. Pan sear the red pepper strips for 2-3 minutes till it is soft and fragrant. This should flavor the pan and cooking oil. Remove the red pepper strips from the pan and set aside for the topping later.

· Using the same skillet, over medium heat, add the butter or margarine. After 2 to 3 minutes, the butter will melt. Add the flour. Working quickly with a whisk, mix and incorporate the flour into the butter till mixture is smooth and free of lumps. You want to have a lump-free mix before adding the rest of the ingredients. If skillet is getting too hot, lower heat to medium low.

· Add the cheddar cheese and cream cheese to the mixture. Blend well. Cover while the cream cheese slowly melts into the whole mixture. This should take only 6 to 8 minutes.

· Once cheeses are well melted, add the heavy cream. Mix the cheese and cream well. Set aside ¾ cup of the cheese mixture for the topping later. Add the cooked macaroni, salt, pepper, garlic powders. Mix well.

· Transfer the macaroni-cheese mixture into a large casserole pan, measuring 9 x 13 inches. Top with a layer of the leftover cheese mixture, red pepper strips and crushed Ritz crackers. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F degrees for 18 minutes or till top is brown. When done, remove casserole from oven. Garnish the top with bacon bits. Serve hot.

 

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Elizabeth Quirino believes that “food brings the world together.” She loves to cook, develop recipes, photograph & write about her culinary adventures on her 2 blogs Asian in America & The Queen's Notebook. Outside the kitchen, Elizabeth paints watercolors, reads everything and ends every week with ballroom dancing. For great food stories find her on Facebook and follow Mango_Queen on Twitter.

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