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The Ultimate Comfort Food: Skillet Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Apples

Lori from Foxes Love Lemons created this delicious and comforting dish with apples as a surprise ingredient.

I'm sure this won't come as a surprise to anybody with kids, but since my daughter arrived on the scene last year, weeknights have been busier than ever around here. By the time we get home, feed her dinner, give her a bath and get her down to bed, there's little time for elaborate dinners for my husband and I. And even less time (and patience) for a mountain of dishes after that.

Anything that can be cooked in one skillet, or on one sheet pan (like my Sheet Pan Chicken & Apple Curry), is given high priority when it comes to creating our weekly meal plan. I've recently been experimenting with one skillet macaroni and cheese. That's right – I don't even use a second pot to boil the noodles separately. This entire recipe, from start to finish, is made in a single skillet.

After a lot of trial and error, I've come up with a foolproof recipe that results in a dreamy, creamy macaroni and cheese that you won't be able to tell was made in an unconventional way. And since I'm always a fan of balancing sweet and savory flavors in almost any dish I make, this cast iron skillet mac and cheese is topped with crispy bacon and sautéed Michigan Gala apples.

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Apples

Prep Time: 15 minutes      Cook Time: 28 minutes     Yield: 4 servings

•             6 slices bacon, chopped

•             2 Gala apples, cored and chopped

•             2 sprigs fresh thyme

•             2 cups small shells pasta

•             3-1/2 cups whole milk, divided

•             1 teaspoon kosher salt

•             1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

•             1-1/2 cups shredded white Cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

Directions:

1.            Add bacon to large cast iron or other high-sided skillet and cook over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Use slotted spoon to transfer bacon to plate.

2.            Remove and discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from skillet. Add apples and thyme to skillet and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and transfer apples to plate with bacon.

3.            Add pasta, 2 cups milk, salt and pepper to skillet. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to         medium-low; cook 4 minutes or until milk is reduced to a thick sauce, stirring constantly.

4.            Stir in remaining 1-1/2 cups milk and cook 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente and milk has reduced by half, stirring frequently.

5.            Turn off heat. Add cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Top with reserved bacon and apples and serve immediately.

 

Lori Yates is a Detroit-area recipe developer and food photographer. She is the author of Foxes Love Lemons, where she posts special yet simple original recipes for the "home chef" in all of us.