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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

I always make a ton of pulled pork. I have immense amounts of leftovers, despite eating pulled pork sandwiches like it’s my job. I freeze half of the leftovers, for future Mary who is sure to crave pulled pork and will be happy to satiate her desires merely by thawing a reserve of the BBQ coated, smoked, shredded meat.
However, I still have a bunch in the fridge and I wanted to do something different than put it in a bun. I decided to try combining two of my favorite comfort foods: pulled pork and mac and cheese. Mac and cheese; buttery, cheesy, creamy, breadcrumby- my favorite stand by for cold weather nights. Would it combine well with smoky, luscious pulled pork? Oh yes, my friends, oh yes.
Please, trust me that you want to make this tonight. Bundle up, watch a good movie, and plant yourself in front of a generous bowl of this. Enjoy!

2 cups prepared pulled pork 
2 pounds short cut pasta (elbow, shells, etc)
3 cups of whole milk
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons of flour
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
16 ounces smoked cheddar cheese 
Pinch red pepper flakes

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Bring a heavily salted pot of water to a bowl. Cook the pasta just shy of its full cook time, right before it hits al dente. Strain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the breadcrumbs, toss, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 60 seconds, until lightly golden. Pour in the milk while whisking, to prevent lumps. Season with red pepper flakes, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for a further 3 minutes or so until the sauce thickens. Add 3 ½ cups of grated cheese and stir well, until the cheese melts into the sauce. Toss the sauce with the pasta.
Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dish, and top with the remaining cheese and pulled pork. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs on top. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbling. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with chives, if desired. 


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