Macaroni cheese with artichoke hearts and bacon



For the macaroni cheese

  • 60g/2¼oz butter
  • 300g/10½oz cooked artichoke hearts (available in jars from delicatessens), cut in half, drained, patted dry with kitchen paper
  • 100g/3½oz bacon lardons (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed slightly with the edge of a knife
  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 800ml/1 pint 7 fl oz milk
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 pinches ground nutmeg
  • 160g/5½oz strong hard cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 350g/12½oz macaroni, cooked according to packet instructions until just al dente (add a dash of oil to the cooking water to prevent the macaroni from sticking together), drained

For the topping

  • 4-6 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced with a serrated knife
  • 40g/1½oz parmesan, finely grated
  • 3-4 pinches dried mixed herbs (such as oregano, thyme or rosemary)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • drizzle extra virgin olive oil