Macaroni and cheese with pinot

Maybe it's the weather - as I write, it's barely over 40 degrees, at noon - but as I taste our Wine of the Week, Melville 2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($24), I keep thinking about macaroni and cheese.

I think it's a great match with this wine, though we'll get to that in a minute.

This pinot noir is austere and restrained, with more mid-palate flavors than forward fruit.

There's a generous earthiness, with notes of dried sage, dried blackberries and a suggestion of fermented black tea. I detect just a hint of dried blueberry, as well.

Deeply colored - think garnets, not rubies - and smooth as it spreads across the palate, the edges show a bit of rough tannin that will resolve with age.

No one would call this wine wimpy, as often happens with more delicate, ethereal pinot noirs.

This one has that racy quality sometimes described as feral, a wildness that engages well with gamey meats, from duck to wild boar, and with mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms.

It will also hook up quite well with certain slow-cooked tomato sauces; try it with Coq au Vin, lamb ragu or roasted tomato soup with a puff pastry crust.

But back to that macaroni and cheese that has me salivating.

I'm not talking about macaroni with a cheese sauce but the real thing, with lots of cheese, eggs and no flour.

In this version, which I have been making for years, I've added bacon and sauteed mushrooms, ingredients that both deepen the bond with the wine and add a delicious layer of sophistication to this beloved but humble dish.

Macaroni and Cheese with Mushrooms & Bacon

Makes 3 to 4 servings

- Butter, at room temperature

5 bacon slices

8 ounces mushrooms, preferably black chanterelles or oyster mushrooms, torn into small pieces

? cup dry white wine

- Kosher salt

- Black pepper in a mill

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1? cups heavy cream, preferably organic

2 pastured eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

? pound pound cheddar cheese, medium or sharp, grated

? pound Italian fontina

12 ounces ditalini, cooked al dente, drained, and rinsed (see Note below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 2-quart souffle dish or similar oven-proof container.

Fry the bacon until it is just crisp and drain on absorbent paper.

When cool, crush or chop the bacon and set it aside.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and return the pan to medium heat.

Add the mushroom, toss, season with salt and pepper and add the wine.

Cover the pan and simmer for about 4 minutes, until the mushrooms wilt.

Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are tender.

Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl or plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium heat, add the bread crumbs and toast, stirring all the while, until evenly browned; do not let burn.

Remove from the heat.

Put the cream, eggs and mustard together in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.

Add half the cheddar, half the Fontina and all of the ditalini and mix well.

Fold in the bacon, mushrooms and remaining cheeses.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the buttered dish and spread the bread crumbs on top.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the aluminum foil and bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Ditalini is what Italian pasta makers call the pasta U.S. producers identify as "salad macaroni."

If you can't find it, you can use elbow-shaped pasta or tubetti. I recommend either an Italian or Mammarella brand.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at

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