- 2 cups rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
- 6 slices smoked bacon, cooked and chopped
- 8 slices country buttermilk bread
- 1 cup sliced cheddar or pepper jack cheese
- Chopped green onion, for garnish
This mind-blowing sandwich was a winner at the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship! It combines the melty goodness of mac and cheese with the crispy crunch of a grilled cheese. It's filling, well balanced with flavor and a sure crowd-pleaser.
Technique tips: I recommend buttering each slice of bread rather than adding butter to the skillet or grill. This gives the sandwiches an even dose of butter across every inch of the bread. Also, cooking the sandwiches slowly is the key. You want your heat low so that the cheese melts evenly. High heat will cause the bread to burn and leave the cheese not fully melted.
Swap option: You can substitute any of your favorite cheeses (just make sure they are melting cheeses like cheddar or Colby jack). Vegan cheese can be used and gluten free bread can be used for any allergy considerations. Texas toast and sour dough bread work great as well.
In a small bowl add the softened butter, liquid smoke, Cajun seasoning and Italian seasoning and mix well. Set aside.2.
Using a medium skillet or griddle on medium-high heat add the heavy whipping cream and cook for about 2 minutes or until it starts to simmer. Stir in the Gouda cheese, a little at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Add the rigatoni noodles to the cheese sauce, making sure to coat each noodle well. Fold in the chopped bacon (save a few pieces of bacon for garnish if you like).3.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the mac and cheese onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out into and even layer and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Cut into squares the same size as the bread for the sandwiches.4.
Spread the seasoned butter on one side of each piece of bread. For each sandwich, place one slice of bread buttered side down on a clean work surface. Cover bread sliced cheese, then add the mac and cheese, then top with more sliced cheese to cover. Top with one more slice of bread, buttered side up.5.
In a medium non-stick skillet on medium-low, cook sandwiches for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until nice and golden brown. Remove from heat and place on a cutting board. Allow resting for about 1-2 minutes to let all the cheese to settle. Using a large sharp knife, cut the grilled cheese at an angle from corner to corner. Then cut that half directly in the middle to create 4 triangles. Serve immediately and garnish with bacon pieces and green onion.