Creamy, tangy buttermilk ranch dressing and freshly-cooked bacon highlight this classic cheesy comfort food.
My friends call me a ranch dressing snob. I prefer the term “connoisseur”, but both are correct.
I love a good ranch. I refuse to buy bottled ranch dressing at the grocery store because I haven’t found one that’s up to my standards. I won’t go to certain restaurants if they don’t serve good ranch. I die a little inside of the thought of eating pizza, fries, mozzarella sticks, wings, quesadillas, potato skins, onion rings, burritos, chicken fingers, and hundreds of other foods without having a bowl (yes, bowl) of great-tasting ranch to dip it in.
Call me crazy and obsessive if you want, but my point is this: I know good ranch. You can trust my years of picky eating and trial and error to give you a ranch taste that won’t disappoint. But enough about me! Let’s talk about this amazing macaroni and cheese.
I saw my friend Baby (nobody puts her in the corner) at a wedding this weekend, and she suggested I formulate a buttermilk ranch macaroni and cheese recipe. Challenge accepted! I decided to throw in some bacon, and this mac and cheese became legen – wait for it – dary.
This mac and cheese is incredibly easy to make. You start with the standard roux-based sauce that is the foundation of all of my mac and cheese recipes, and the addition of a good, sharp white cheddar helps the sauce maintain the pale color that complements the ranch seasonings so well.
The base of a good ranch dressing is its seasonings. I have a lot of recipes that contain ranch spices (have I told you how much I love ranch?), and I’ll always give you the easy option to use Hidden Valley Ranch packets or the alternative option of using my homemade seasonings, which are just as delicious and contain spices that you probably already have in your pantry.
This recipe really is so simple. The toughest part is waiting for the mac and cheese to come out of the oven.
- 1 lb. box of pasta (I used campanelle)
- 6-8 slices of bacon, crumbled
- ¼ c. butter
- ¼ c. flour
- 2 c. milk
- 1½ c. buttermilk
- 2 c. sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- ½ c. parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 packets of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning (or Homemade Ranch Seasoning*)
- 2 tsp. fresh or dried chives
- 1 tsp. parsley
- 1 tsp. dill weed
- 1½ tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prepare bacon by frying or baking. Sandwich cooked bacon between two paper towels and cool completely.
- Cook pasta one minute less than al dente package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Slowly whisk the flour into the butter, reducing heat and stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes or until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- Slowly add milk, continuing to whisk as you pour. Return heat to medium.
- Add Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packets/Homemade Ranch Seasonings.
- Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens (about 6-10 minutes).
- Remove sauce from heat.
- Add about 1½ cups of the white cheddar and all of the parmesan cheese to the sauce. Stir until the cheese is fully melted.
- Toss the sauce and cooked pasta together in the warm pasta pot.
- Crumble all of the bacon slices except one into the sauce/pasta mixture, then stir gently.
- Transfer to a 2½ quart baking dish.
- Sprinkle remaining white cheddar cheese and crumble remaining slice of bacon over the top.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden and edges are bubbling.
- Cool for 5 minutes and serve.