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overhead closeup of a plate of macaroni and cheese topped with crispy bacon pieces
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5 from 4 votes

Älplermagronen (Swiss Alpine Macaroni and Cheese)

Alpine macaroni (älplermagronen or alpen macaroni) is essentially Swiss mac and cheese with potatoes. Macaroni and cubed potatoes collectively drown in a decadent cheese sauce! This fall and winter cozy classic is topped with caramelized onions and crispy bacon lardons, and is served with a side of applesauce.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Swiss
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 648kcal
Author: Victoria

Ingredients

Bacon Lardons (Optional):

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon cut into ¼-inch-wide strips

Caramelized Onions:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or 2 tablespoons bacon drippings from making lardons)
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt

Applesauce:

  • 3 apples peeled, cored, and cubed (such as Granny Smith, McIntosh, or Golden Delicious)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons water

Macaroni:

  • 10 ounces (280 grams) waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold) peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces (about 1 large potato)
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) tubular macaroni (such as ziti, penne, cavatappi, cellentani, elbows, or hörnli)
  • ¾ cup half-and-half, light cream, or single cream (names vary around the world but aim for about 18-22% milk fat--can also do a combination of approximately equal parts heavy cream and milk)
  • 8 ounces (225 grams / about 2 cups) grated Appenzeller or Gruyère cheese (or other mature Swiss Alpine cheese)
  • Kosher salt and freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions

  • To make the bacon lardons: add the bacon pieces to a cold frying pan and turn on the heat to medium heat. Cook lardons, stirring regularly, until the fat renders and the bacon is browned and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove lardons with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • To make the caramelized onions: In a frying pan over medium-low heat melt the butter. Alternatively cook the onions in 2 tablespoons bacon fat if you are cooking bacon lardons for the garnish (just use the same frying pan and remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan). Add the onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring regularly until soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  • To make the applesauce: Place the apples in a saucepan with water and cover. Simmer gently on medium-low heat, stirring once or twice, until the apple is completely tender, about 20 minutes. Mash with a fork until smooth. Set aside.
  • To make the macaroni: Add the cubed potatoes to a large pot and cover generously with salted water. Bring to a boil, add the macaroni and continue to cook until the macaroni is barely al dente and the potatoes are tender. The exact time will depend on the macaroni shape. It’s about 10 minutes for ziti. If using a smaller shape with shorter cook time (like elbows which need only 6 minutes for al dente) you may want to boil the potatoes for a couple minutes on their own before adding the macaroni. Drain the macaroni and potatoes.
  • Return to the drained macaroni and potatoes to the pot, add the cream and return to medium heat. Stir until the cream starts to heat up (a minute or so) and then add the grated cheese, a little salt, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Keep stirring until the cheese has melted into a thick and luscious sauce.
  • Serve the cheesy Alpine macaroni on individual plates topped with caramelized onions, crispy bacon lardons (optional), and with applesauce on the side to eat either with the macaroni or afterwards as dessert based on personal preference.

Notes

  • This recipe can easily be halved. You can either make a little extra applesauce by using 2 apples instead of 1 ½ or just eat the other half apple as a snack. Half of ¾ cup (for the cream) would be 6 tablespoons OR ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons.
  • Shortcuts and advanced prep:
    • Use store-bought unsweetened applesauce in place of homemade.
    • Make the applesauce, bacon lardons, and caramelized onions ahead of time. They can all be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before using them.
    • Grate the cheese ahead of time to make for a quick last minute cooking process.
    • Although this is served as a stove-top style macaroni and cheese, you can make it in advance, transfer to a casserole dish and then bake it when you are ready to reheat and serve. This is also a great way to heat up leftovers.
  • Alpine macaroni is creamiest when served immediately, however these are the steps to follow if you want to store/reheat leftovers:
    • Transfer to a small baking dish. Top with the remaining caramelized onions and bacon, and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 3 to 5 days, or place in a freezer bag and freeze for 1 to 2 months.
    • To reheat, thaw overnight in the fridge if frozen. Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375°F. Heat the foil-covered baking dish of Swiss mac and cheese for 30 to 40 minutes until heated through. The exact time may vary depending on the size/shape of the baking dish, how full it is, and how cold it is when you put it in the oven. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to ensure ultimate bubbliness and bacon crispiness. A minute under the broiler won't hurt either!

Nutrition

Calories: 648kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 82mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 14g