You know what I haven’t had in a long time? A nice big bowl of mac and cheese. That’s what. I’ve been craving mac and cheese for the longest time and just yesterday I made a huge cast iron skillet of some. Boy did that hit the spot. This is one of those dishes that’s going to make you fill your belly and then sit back and relax. There’s nothing quite like it.
This dish is considered a gratin because it’s got a nice tasty crust of breadcrumbs and melted cheese. White cheddar and grated Parmesan cheese, to be exact. I wanted to jazz things up a bit as well, so I added a pound and a half of quartered mushroom and some blanched broccoli. Those two ingredients really put the texture and flavor over the top. Other than that, the dish is fairly traditional. It uses milk and flour to create the base and then some salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to give things a kick. There’s a lot going on in this dish and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I certainly did.
1 1/2 Pounds Mushrooms, Quartered
1 Large Sweet Onion, Chopped
2 Teaspoons Garlic, Minced
1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
4 Cups Whole Milk
Ground Black Pepper
Regular Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1 1/2 Cups Parmesan Cheese, Grated, Divided
1 1/2 Cups White Cheddar Cheese, Shredded, Divided
12 Ounces Cavatappi Pasta, Cooked
4 Cups Broccoli Florets, Blanched
3 Tablespoons Breadcrumbs
I’d like to thank Southern Cast Iron for this recipe. While they used bacon in their recipe and I went the vegetarian route and used mushrooms, they were certainly my inspiration.
Cook the Pasta
Just to let you know, it doesn’t matter what order you cook the pasta, broccoli and mushrooms in. As long as they cooked. They don’t need to remain hot to work with them later on.
Follow the directions on your box of pasta for cooking and then strain it in a colander. In my case, I filled a large pot about half way with water and added two teaspoons of salt to the water. I brought everything to a boil over high heat and then I added the pasta. I let it cook for 10 minutes and then I turned off the heat and then I poured the pasta into a colander.
I set the pasta aside for later use.
Blanch the Broccoli & Cook the Mushrooms
To blanch the broccoli, I filled the same large pot with water again and brought that water to a boil over high heat. I also added another two teaspoons of salt to the water. When the water began to boil, I added the broccoli florets to it and stirred them with a spoon. They like to float, so I had to keep dunking then with the spoon.
I let the broccoli boil for four minutes. Then, I turned off the heat and poured the contents of the pot into a colander. After that, I ran the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking. I set the broccoli aside.
Next, I warmed a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. I added two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and then I added the mushrooms. I stirred and let the mushrooms cook for about 12 minutes. I knew they cooked enough when the moisture that was released had simmered away.
I set these mushrooms aside as well. You can actually add the pasta, mushrooms and broccoli to the same large bowl to store it. Everything is going into the same pot eventually.
Arrange your oven racks to one of them is in the center position and the other is in the top position. Then, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the Onions & Make the Sauce
Okay, now the fun begins. Warm a large 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet as well as the onion and garlic. Cook these ingredients for about eight minutes or until the onions soften and begin to brown.
After that, add the flour, stir and let cook for another minute. Then, slowly add the milk and continue to stir until it begins to thicken. Also add the mustard, two teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper and the red pepper flakes. To get the sauce where it should be, it will take about five to eight minutes.
Add Cheese & Other Ingredients
Remove the skillet from the heat. Then, add one cup of the Parmesan cheese and one cup of the cheddar cheese to the sauce and stir it in well. Then, add in the pasta, broccoli and mushrooms and stir these ingredients in as well. Everything might not fit and you may have some left over. I did.
After that, sprinkle everything with the breadcrumbs, remaining Parmesan and remaining cheddar. It should look something like this.
Bake the Mac & Cheese
Add the skillet to the center rack in your oven. Let everything cook for 10 minutes until it’s bubbly. Then, to get a nice brown on top, turn off the oven and turn your broiler on high. Place the skillet on the top rack and keep a very close eye on things. All you need here is about one minute to add some brown to the cheese. After you see the color you like, turn off the oven and remove the skillet. Let it cook for a few minutes before serving.
Plate & Serve
With a large spoon, scoop out portions and plate them. Serve and enjoy!
The Final Mac & Cheese Gratin
This dish was awesome. I don’t know of one person on earth who wouldn’t like this. Talk about comfort food. Tasty and delicious. If you decide to give this recipe a try, please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!