Jeff’s Special “Bacon and Crispy Brussels Sprout Mac and Cheese”

When Jeff came to me with this idea, he had literally no intention of creating a recipe for the blog and was purely concerned about dinner that night. We had a ton of Brussels sprouts to use, three slices of bacon in a forgotten pack, pasta, and a block of Monterey jack cheese, and you would’ve thought he had just found the answer to life’s biggest question when he pronounced that this was what he wanted to make for dinner. Fortunately, it turned out amazing, so I had to share.

You start by quartering the sprouts, dousing them in oil, salt, and pepper and roasting at 425. While those crisp up, cook your pasta according to package instructions and brown up some chopped bacon until crispy. The sauce comes together with some of the rendered bacon fat, a few spoonfuls of flour, milk, and the cheese, plus some seasonings as well.

This dish is simple, comforting, and can be catered towards many different diets depending on the variety of pasta and dairy products you choose to use. Of course, nothing will ever replace the pure indulgence that is bacon fat, real pasta, real cheese, and whole milk, but I’m confident this will be just as amazing if you use a gluten free pasta variety, dairy-free milk, or vegan cheese. I can’t say anything about leaving out the bacon though, that’s a personal matter.

I hope you guys give Jeff’s Spesh a try and post all the photos so he can see how many people love his culinary endeavors- I know I do! If you do make this, don’t forget to tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!


1lb short pasta, such as macaroni, casarecce, or penne

3 slices thick-cut bacon (or more if you have it, Jeff says), diced

1/2 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered

2 TBSP reserved bacon fat, or butter

2 TBSP flour

1 cup whole milk

1 cup Monterey jack (or similar) cheese, grated

Olive oil, for greasing

Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425 and bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Clean and halve or quarter Brussels sprouts, depending on their size, and place on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until charred and crispy, about 20 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium heat, brown bacon until just crispy.
  5. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel and remove all but 2 TBSP of bacon fat from the pan.
  6. Whisk in 2 TBSP of flour, stirring constantly until a thick roux forms. Allow the roux to brown for about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it.
  7. Stir in milk and whisk until the roux dissolves. Add cheese and stir again until it has melted and the sauce is cohesive. Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly.
  8. Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and add in half of the cooked bacon. Fold to combine.
  9. Top pasta with the crispy Brussels sprouts, additional bacon, and fresh cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Creamy Everything Scalloped Potatoes with Lemony Pesto

You. Guys. I literally tested this recipe THIS MORNING and had to share it same day because it’s that good. I grew up eating traditional scalloped potatoes, sometimes with ham, and of course they were delicious. What could be better than potatoes and cheese? Um, I think I found my answer.

The monotonous, traditional scalloped potatoes (or potatoes Au Gratin) get jazzed up with the addition of fresh thyme, garlic, and everything bagel seasoning. Traditionally, this dish incorporates both gruyere and parmesan cheeses, however in this recipe I chose not to add the parmesan. The nutty, creamy gruyere, which is normally balanced by the tangy parmesan, is instead complimented by the bright lemony pesto, and I didn’t feel that the parmesan was needed. If you want to add it, go for it.

This dish comes together in about 15 minutes, and the majority of the cook time is spent in the oven. You start by slicing Russet potatoes (or other starchy variety) and shallots into 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. You want to take care to slice the pieces as close in size as possible, so they all cook at the same time. Once sliced, just layer the potatoes and shallots in your glass baking dish and cover with the delicious cheese sauce.

The lemony pesto could not be easier- simply mix 1/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto with the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon. The brightness will blow you away! I also love to spoon this pesto over avocado toast, pasta, fish or chicken, and homemade pizza. The opportunities are endless, and I know this will be a summer staple condiment for me.

The weather is warming up, but the nights are still cool and begging for a soul-warming dish to be eaten out on the patio with your favorite sweater on. I’ll be having these potatoes tonight, alongside pan-roasted chicken breasts and crispy broccoli. Probably with a glass of Pinot Grigio too, because, well you know. I hope you enjoy this refreshing take on a classic as much as I do. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to share a photo and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!


1.5lbs Russet potatoes 

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

1 TBSP flour

2 TBSP butter, plus more for greasing

1 ½ cups milk 

½ cups shredded gruyere

1 TBSP everything bagel seasoning

¼ cup basil pesto

Zest and juice of ½ lemon 


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×12 or 9×13 inch glass baking dish with butter.
  2. Slice potatoes into ⅛-¼ inch pieces. Peel and slice shallot crosswise and separate the layers into rounds. Mince garlic cloves. 
  3. Place a layer of potatoes followed by a layer of shallots and repeat until the baking dish is full. Set aside.
  4. In a medium skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. Stir in minced garlic and thyme leaves. Allow to cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. 
  5. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Allow the flour and butter mixture to cook for 2 minutes or so, until thick and bubbling. 
  6. Add milk and stir constantly until the entire mixture has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add cheese and stir until just melted. Remove from heat and stir in everything bagel seasoning. Taste for additional salt and add accordingly. 
  7. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes, using the back of a spoon to smooth it over the top evenly. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. 
  8. While the potatoes bake, make the Lemony Pesto. Combine ¼ cup of your favorite store-bought basil pesto, juice of ½ lemon, and fresh lemon zest. Stir to combine.
  9. When the time’s up, remove foil and broil the potatoes 1-2 minutes, until the top is browned to your liking. Spoon Lemony Pesto over the top and sprinkle with additional everything bagel seasoning, if desired. Serve immediately for dinner alongside your favorite protein and vegetable.