BLT Creamy Mac 'n' Cheese

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blt creamy mac n cheese
  • 6Servings

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound ziti rigati pasta
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks--trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 3 ounces bricks cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded asiago, grana padano or parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees . Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.

While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat a drizzle of EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp at the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the leeks and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Stir in half of the shredded cheese, then the reserved pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Pile into a casserole and top with the tomatoes and remaining shredded cheese. Bake until browned on top, 7 to 8 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the arugula and basil with the lemon juice and a drizzle of EVOO. Serve on top of the pasta.