skillet mac + cheese

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 pound cavatappi or rigatoni, or similar
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 pound slab Applewood smoked bacon, diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups (about 1/2 pound total) grated sharp cheddar, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Transfer to a bowl and add breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until mixture is combined. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add salt. Add pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes until al dente (pasta will continue to cook while it bakes so it’s important not to fully cook it here). Drain pasta and set aside.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet (about 9 inches) to medium-high. Add bacon and cook until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add flour and whisk until lightly golden brown and incorporated into butter, making a roux. Slowly pour in milk and continue stirring, until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and stir in 2 cups cheddar, drained pasta and bacon. Scatter remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top.
  5. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over top and bake for 35-45 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.