This Skillet Mac and Cheese with Bacon & Apples recipe can be made in a single skillet in 30 minutes flat. It’s sure to become a weeknight favorite for the whole family!
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.
Sometimes we’ll get lucky and my mom will make us a batch of her Lasagna with Cottage Cheese. But when we’re on our own, 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.
How to make Skillet Mac and Cheese:
While traditional homemade mac and cheese is generally made by combining cooked noodles, shredded cheese and bechamel sauce (milk thickened with a roux of flour and butter), we’ll be omitting the flour and butter for this skillet mac and cheese. Instead, we’ll use one skillet to first cook the bacon and the apples.
Then, we’ll use the same skillet to boil small pasta shells directly in the milk. As the noodles cook, the milk will thicken into a sauce (no flour needed!). We’ll stir in shredded white Cheddar cheese at the end to complete the recipe.
What is in skillet mac and cheese with bacon and apples?:
- small pasta shells
- whole milk
- white cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper
Tips for making this cast iron skillet mac and cheese recipe successful:
- You don’t necessarily need to use a cast iron skillet, but you do need to use a high-sided skillet to contain the milk while it’s simmering. A flatter skillet will lead to a big mess. I prefer a cast iron skillet for this recipe not only because it has high sides, but also because it gets the bacon nice and crispy, too.
- I used a sharp white Cheddar cheese for this recipe, but feel free to experiment with other cheeses that you like. Traditional Cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan and even goat’s cheese (or a combination of a few cheeses) are also great options.
- I always use whole milk for mac and cheese because it’s the creamiest. I have not tested this recipe with other kinds of milk.
- Elbow macaroni will work in place of small pasta shells, if you wish. But you want to make sure to use a small variety of pasta so that it can cook all the way through before the milk gets too thick.
- Serve this with a side salad with miso dressing for a complete meal!
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Turn off heat. Add cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Top with reserved bacon and apples and serve immediately.
This recipe was originally published to the Michigan Apples blog.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 549 Total Fat: 31g Saturated Fat: 16g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 12g Cholesterol: 90mg Sodium: 1273mg Carbohydrates: 39g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 16g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 28g
More Great Skillet Meals:
- Skillet Pork Chops with Apple Gnocchi Saute – with a hard apple cider glaze.
- Creamy Salmon Pasta – perfect for a date night at home.
- One Pan Sausage & Tortellini – the kids will love this one, and there’s lots of hidden veggies!
- Bloody Mary Shakshuka – cocktail-inspired brunch eggs.
- Turkey, Mushroom & Cranberry Risotto – make this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey!
- Skillet Honey Lime Chicken from The Recipe Critic
- 30 Minute Skillet Chicken Enchiladas from Jamie Cooks It Up
Disclosure: This was a paid guest post written by me on behalf of the Michigan Apple Committee. Posts like this help me pay for the costs associated with this blog (groceries…lots of groceries), and help support me as I pursue a career in recipe development and food photography. All opinions are 100% my own.