A Recipe Courtesy Our Friends At Southern Living Magazine
It was pure pandemonium at our house, each of us greedily vying to spoon seconds...
Hold on to your hats for this Ricotta-Topped Skillet Mac and Cheese. Southern Living Magazine's Test Kitchen has created dozens of recipes for macaroni and cheese over the years. My Mom recently came across this one and was determined to try it. Turns out, and according to the folks over at Southern Living Magazine, this is among their favorites, and after trying it, it's kinda now ours, too.
Now, there are plenty of versions of mac and cheese. This one is uber super creamy. It does get baked at the end, but it is not a baked mac and cheese the way granny did it. Stay with me. Southern Living writes that the secret to this version is three kinds of cheese; Cheddar, Velveeta, and whole-milk ricotta. Insert swooning, sighing, and drooling. And there is another secret...a generous amount of mayonnaise, which gives it a creamy texture and a slight tanginess. Sounds rich, right? It is. But wait...after the incorporation of all the yummies, the pasta is topped off with light, buttery Panko breadcrumbs and baked in a skillet for an ooey, gooey texture and slightly crisp edges. It was pure pandemonium at our house vying to spoon seconds.
Insert swooning, sighing, and drooling.
So let’s just agree straight out of the gate that consuming silky, cheese-laden, crispy-topped noodles is not for everyday, but heck, it's not to be left only for special occasions either. It comes together in a hot minute and can feed a small crowd as a main, or satisfy masses as a side, but also works on a Wednesday after T-Ball practice and before homework.
This Mac and Cheese is prepared in a large cast-iron skillet, which then safely transfers to under the broiler. It saves on cleanup since there's no casserole dish, and the pan itself makes the dish more nutritious. That's right, here I go again about the benefits of my $3 flea market find; cooking in cast iron will actually impart iron to food. You just can’t get that from any other cookware. And hey, this mac is way better than the boxed stuff. However, and you know there is almost always a caveat...no matter what instruction I write for this post, somebody will inevitably ask me 'but why can't I use a casserole dish?' So, for that someone (you know who you are), yes, you can use a well-buttered casserole dish.
Ingredients For Ricotta-Topped Skillet Mac and Cheese
12 ounces uncooked large elbow macaroni
1/4 cup salted butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion (from 1 onion)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (we use Dorot)
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
6 ounces processed cheese (such as Velveeta), cubed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
Prepare pasta according to package directions; set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Using a sharp knife, choped the onion finely. Add onion, and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add flour and garlic to skillet; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add Cheddar and processed cheese, whisking until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta, mayonnaise, salt, and 1/2 cup of the parsley.
Stir together ricotta and egg in a small bowl. Gently stir ricotta mixture into pasta mixture, leaving large swirls. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together panko, melted butter, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley until blended. Top pasta with panko mixture, and bake until top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.