Decadent Skillet Mac ‘N Cheese
As a kid, my brother requested Kraft macaroni and cheese for his birthday every year. Bonus points were given if my mom added chopped up hotdogs. Even as a kid, I wasn’t a fan of a sauce based largely on a day-glo orange powdered substance we are supposed to believe is somehow derived from cheese. Mind you, my mother actually makes lovely mac ‘n cheese from scratch, but my brother used to specifically request “the kind from the blue box.” He is one of the most food nostalgic people I know, but thankfully, his tastebuds have matured beyond powdered cheese.
While I may question his orange powder request, I can’t argue with someone requesting Mac ‘n’ Cheese for their birthday dinner. In our house, it is one of the most frequently requested meals period. Who doesn’t love creamy, cheesy noodles?
Usually, we stick to the traditional baked mac and cheese with cheddar, parmesan, and all the typical cheesy characters. But this past fall, we were really loving blending a little roasted squash into the mix with this butternut squash variety.
And now, this super decadent mac ‘n’ cheese with creamy brie and camembert cheese has been our regular go-to. And because its no-bake, it comes together in a flash! And, no-bake makes is crazy gooey and creamy. I like crisping up breadcrumbs under the broiler to add a little crunch to the creamy finish. Ya’ll this is “fancy” tasting, but EASY making;) Possibly my favorite combo of qualities. If faux fancy mac ‘n’ cheese becomes a thing, this is THAT.
But on to the burning questions of eternal significance;) What noodles to use? I’m pretty sure fights have broken out over the proper noodles to use in mac ‘n cheese. Elbow macaroni, shells, penne? Strong arguments can be made on all accounts…. But my answer is that it depends! In baked mac, I am penne person alllll the way. Probably because thats what they used in the giant square of mac ‘n’ cheese I frequently ate at a cafe in college – you know, when calories meant nothing to my 19 year old body. But in this super gooey, creamy, and decadent no-bake variety, I opt for shells! They offer the right balance of texture without getting in the way of the creamy decadence. Giving the gooey cheese something to hold on to, but with less surface area than penne, they swim perfectly in the sauciness. Mmmmmm…..
I’m advocating for skillet mac nights all the time now. Roast some veg or make a salad on the side… and its a perfect, simple, but sinfully rich and delish meal!
- 10 oz. camembert cut into small pieces, rind removed
- 10 oz. brie cut into small pieces, rind removed
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese, divided
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock, warmed
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsbp. lemon juice
- 1/2 lb. medium sized shell pasta
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Have cast iron skillet set aside and ready.
In a medium saucepan, add water salt and cook pasta per package directions until al dente (be very careful not to overcook!). Drain pasta and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan (or you can use your skillet), melt butter over medium heat, then add garlic and cook until fragrant for about 1 minute. Give it a stir and slowly whisk in flour. Allow mixture to bubble and raw flour taste to cook out for about a minute, whisking constantly. Slowly add milk in a slow, steady stream. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until slightly thickened (about 2 minutes). Stir in lemon juice and pinch of nutmeg. Then slowly stir in the camembert, brie, and 1/2 cup of parmesan. Immediately increase temperature to medium. Add cream and vegetable stock. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally until smooth, thick and melted throughout. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add noodles to sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to cast iron skillet if not already using it. Make sure pasta and sauce create and even layer.
Set oven broiler to high and position top rack so that it is 6" from heat source.
Sprinkle panko, remaining parmesan, pinch of salt, and pinch of pepper on top of pasta. Place in oven for 30 seconds to one minute, checking every 20 seconds or so, until the breading has turned golden brown. Remove from broiler and serve immediately!