This is a great weekday dinner recipe, which is relatively quick and easy. You don't have to add the chicken if you don't want to - in fact you don't even have to add the bacon if you want to keep this a veggie meal. I'm not reinventing the wheel here with this one, but I found the hickory BBQ flavour works really well with the vintage cheddar and bacon.
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 heaped tbsp hickory BBQ sauce
3 tsp hot sauce (I used Crystal brand)
1/2 cup light sour cream
250g vintage cheddar, grated
300g smokey bacon, excess fat removed
1 bbq/rotisserie chicken
salt + freshly ground black pepper
extra vintage cheddar, grated, for serving
handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil over high heat, when at rolling boil stage, add in the dried macaroni and cook for 7 minutes then drain reserving 2 tablespoons of cooking water, and coat in 1 tablespoon of light olive oil. Set aside covered.
Cut bacon into very small pieces and fry in 2 teaspoons olive oil in a pan until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towel.
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan then add the flour and beat together using a wooden spoon, add the milk in stages and beat vigorously with a balloon whisk until you get a smooth, creamy sauce. Add more milk if you feel it might be a little thick. You are aiming for a sauce resembling thick pouring cream.
Add the BBQ sauce, hot sauce, sour cream and cheddar and stir to combine. At this stage you can also add 3/4 bacon, reserving the last 1/4 to sprinkle on the top before grilling. Pour sauce all over cooked macaroni and stir to coat everything together thoroughly.
Shred the meat from the bbq chicken (if using) and add to the pasta, stir then pour the whole lot into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with extra cheddar, remaining bacon bits, chopped parsley and thyme.
Place dish under a hot grill or broiler for 10 minutes or until top is golden brown, bubbling and crispy.