Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta

Serves 6 to 8

8 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound medium pasta shells
8 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
6 cups whole milk
4 cups (16 ounces) Wisconsin Fontiago cheese, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
a few shakes of salt and black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, thinly sliced
1 cup (8 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

2. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, add pancetta. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and olive oil, mixing with your fingertips. Set aside.

4. Cook pasta in salted water, about 2 minutes short of being fully cooked; it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain the cooked pasta, but do not rinse. Place in a large bowl. 

5. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour. Gradually add milk, whisking continuously until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, or until thick and bubbly.

6. Add cooked pancetta, Fontiago cheese, cream sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, basil and parsley. Stir well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.

*Fontiago Cheese is a Wisconsin original made by Roth Käse cheese company,

Recipe created by Susan Russo of Food Blogga.