Homemade mac and cheese can be time-consuming to prepare. This version is quick and easy, on the table in just about 30 minutes total! The spark for this recipe came from a close friend, who is a whiz in the kitchen. She casually combines ingredients without using a particular formula. She goes by feel, adding handfuls of cheese and spoonfuls of flour until the mixture right. Then she stirs in the cooked macaroni, pours everything into a casserole dish, and runs it under the broiler for a few minutes. The blast of heat creates an instant crust—no need for breadcrumbs.
I've modified her technique to make things even easier. I prepare the cheese sauce in a large cast-iron skillet, which can safely go under the broiler. It saves on cleanup since there's no casserole dish, and the pan itself makes the dish more nutritious. Yep that's right, cooking in cast iron will actually add iron to your food. I have been receiving iron infusions for the last 6 weeks, I'm looking for anything that will help boost my iron levels! As far as I'm concerned, this quickie method for scrummy homemade Mac & Cheese is downright indispensable. Hope you ENJOY!
CAST-IRON SKILLET MAC & CHEESE
Since this recipe moves so quickly, make sure you've got everything measured and lined up on the counter before you start.
- One 12- to 14.5-ounce box Elbow Macaroni
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups (8 to 10 ounces) Grated Cheese(s) of your choice, divided. I use Cabot Sharp Cheddar, the more you use, the cheesier the dish!
- 4 to 5 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
WHAT TO DO
- Preheat broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (8 to 10 inches across, and 2 inches or more deep) over low heat.
- When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, make the cheese sauce: Put the butter into the now very-hot skillet. It should melt, foam, and begin to brown almost immediately. Pour in the milk, then add the mustard, paprika, and salt, and whisk together.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the grated cheese for topping the final dish. Begin to add the rest of the cheese to the skillet, one handful at a time, whisking between each addition. When it has all melted, sift the flour over the skillet, one tablespoon at a time - I use a strainer, whisking after each spoonful. Stop adding the flour when the sauce is almost as thick as house paint.
- Continue to cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta well and add to the skillet, then remove from the heat.
- Stir pasta and cheese sauce together until fully combined, then sprinkle the top with the reserved grated cheese. Broil until top is browned and bubbly, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Go Southwestern by adding a strained 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, like Ro-Tel. Use Cheddar and Jack cheeses in the sauce.
- Smoke it up by frying 2 diced strips of bacon in the skillet before adding the milk. Skip the butter completely.
- Add 8 ounces frozen vegetables, our choice, to the pasta pot about 5 minutes before pasta is done. Since the water will take a little time to come back up to a boil, increase the cooking time by a minute or two.
- Add a couple of diced hot dogs, cooked in the butter then removed until you stir it back in with the cooked pasta, makes for a surprisingly delicious twist. Kids love it!
- Add cubed smoked ham, yum!
Do yourself a favor and use a thick potholder with your skillet! Cast iron gets very, very hot. After burning my hand one too many times, I learned. I always use two potholders AND both hands when picking up a my cast-iron pan. I'm afraid I might burn my hand or drop my skillet! It could happen...... I am a klutz in the kitchen!
THE DOMESTIC CURATOR