Ooey, gooey, and smothered in cheese—that's the way macaroni is truly meant to be enjoyed. When it comes to comfort food, sometimes the old fashioned way is the best way.
Making the original, real deal mac and cheese doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming. It might take a little more time than the boxed stuff, but the payoff is totally worth it.
Follow our recipe below to whisk up a quick cheese sauce, pasta, and then bake it all in one dish to get that crispy, browned top with a creamy center.
We highly suggest making this macaroni and cheese in a cast iron skillet. These skillets make it easy to transfer from stovetop to the oven, so they're great for making the bechamel and cheese sauce, adding in the macaroni, and then baking directly in the dish.
Cast iron skillets have an even temperature distribution, which yields great results when you're looking to get that crispy outside and gooey center. You can also use your skillet on the grill for a barbecue or campfire mac and cheese to add more flavor with the smoke.
The trick to making delicious pan-fried mac and cheese is first in using fresh, good quality, and flavorful ingredients.
The most important decision is which cheese to use, as the cheese will make a massive impact on the flavor and texture of your dish. Because our recipe uses a bechamel sauce roux (butter, milk, flour) as a base, the cheese melts more evenly. This means you can use cheeses that don't melt as easily and still get great results!
Sharp cheddar is the classic cheese used in most mac and cheese recipes. You will want to avoid most mild-flavored cheese as they tend to get lost in the dish and the results can be bland.
Here are the best cheeses to use in your mac and cheese:
Combining cheeses is a great way to add even more depth to the flavor. If you want to use a very strong cheese like smoked gouda or blue cheese, it is a good idea to mix with a less strong cheese, like a mild cheddar or mozzarella so that the flavors don't become too powerful for the dish.
Try mixing three different cheeses together with different fat content, moisture content, and texture.
Once you've mastered the classic mac and cheese, it's really fun to play around with different flavor add-ins to the dish. Here are some of our favorites:
Make sure to follow the instructions on the box. Remove pasta from the heat al dente so that the baking process doesn't turn it to mush. Don't forget as well to put salt in the water to season the pasta, and add a little oil to keep them from sticking.
Whether you are going the classic route or choose to dress up your mac and cheese with one of our suggestions, this recipe is sure to make using a skillet your perfered way to cook up this comfort food!