How to make Southern crab mac and cheese

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Growing up, my brother was a macaroni and cheese fiend. I liked plain-old cheesy mac, but he wanted all kinds of flavors in his. My mother would make pizza macaroni with marinara and pepperoni, spicy buffalo chicken mac and cheese and (for special occasions) the recipe below for crab mac and cheese. It was probably my first exposure to crab, and I was hooked even though I was a picky eater.
The sweet flavor of the crab complements the salty bacon and savory cheese sauce really well. It's truly a dish worthy of celebration. I like using fun types of pasta shapes (such as the cavatapi used in this recipe), but don't worry if you don't have them around. It will taste just as good with regular elbow macaroni.
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Cooktop Cove
Southern crab mac and cheese
6
25 minutes
15 to 20 minutes
45 minutes
1 pound cavatapi pasta
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 pound lump crab meat, drained
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish with nonstick spray or butter.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon is well browned. Remove the bacon to a bowl and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease.
Add the butter to the bacon grease and melt it over medium heat.
Add the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the flour to the pan and whisk until the color turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the milk (stirring it in gradually), Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until thickened.
Add the cheddar cheese, one handful at a time, and whisk until it is incorporated before adding the next handful.
Fold in the crab meat, cooked cavatapi pasta and bacon.
Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.
Set the oven to broil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the bread crumbs are browned.
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