Skillet Mac n’ Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Campbells stock 9 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

I may have to start a Mac & Cheese of the Month club, considering how many formulas I have lined up on my must-make list. We can call this the official Mac & Cheese of March. March to it.

Campbells stock 7 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

For the past few weeks, Alice has filled any spare time I might otherwise have had – the manuscript was due at the end of February, and I’m now plodding through approximately half a bajillion photos to edit by mid-March. Since meals around here are often whatever I happen to be working on at the time, there have been plenty of tea party leftovers for dinner.

Campbells stock 1 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon
Campbells stock 2 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Yesterday the boys I live with requested something other than a jam tart – specifically mac & cheese, from a box. I almost relented, but then decided to give this recipe a try – I made the whole thing in a skillet, which allows you to cook up any number of ingredients, from bacon, ham or sausage to veggies (think mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and greens like kale, spinach and chard), then add an easy cheese sauce and the cooked pasta -which boils as you sauté your miscellaneous ingredients – and slide it into the oven to get all crispy on top. It’s a great way to use up bits of meat and cheese and wrinkly veggies. If you went the ground beef route, it would essentially be DIY Hamburger Helper.

Campbells stock 3 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Campbells stock 4 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

The cheat is a carton of creamy stock. I go through a lot of stock around here – and while I am in the habit of simmering whatever carcass finds its way into my kitchen, the stock I use isn’t always homemade. This stuff is thick and creamy, like a seasoned white sauce you pour straight from its carton into the pan – all you need to do is add a couple of handfuls of grated cheese. It’s like the new-school version of a tin of soup, which people tend to make fun of when called for in old cookbooks, but in reality that’s the way many of us cook. You could get a similar result by simmering butter, flour and milk, but this is a more direct route when you want to take a shortcut.

Campbells stock 5 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Campbells stock 6 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

The breadcrumb topping takes about a minute – I tear a piece or two of sandwich bread (it makes great use of the heels of bread that otherwise get tossed) into the food processor and pulse it a few times with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of grated Parmesan. Baking the lot in a cast iron skillet – the same one you sautéed your meat and veggies in – not only saves dishes, but maximizes the crispy surface area. Which in the case of a baked mac & cheese is a very good thing.

Campbells stock 10 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

And that’s all, folks. I love the sound of the original recipe – with lots of sautéed mushrooms and a pinch of smoked paprika, but sadly all the 10 and unders around here balk at the sight of a mushroom, and I’m guessing not everyone has a tin of smoked paprika in their spice drawer. The great thing about this method, which I may have mentioned, is that it’s so adaptable – whatever you like, or have that needs using, can get tossed in and cooked up (or reheated) before you add the sauce. In fact, it could be a cheesy tuna casserole with tuna and peas! Or an Italian-esque casserole with leftover roasted chicken, chopped kale and sun dried tomatoes! Or W’s dream casserole with extra cheese and loads of chopped ham! The casserole is poised to make its comeback.

Campbells stock 8 Skillet Mac n Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Skillet Mac n’ Cheese with Spinach & Bacon

Adapted from CookwithCampbells.ca

1/2 500 g pkg. rigatoni or other chunky pasta
4 slices bacon, chopped, or 1 large Italian sausage
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carton Campbell’s Stock First Cream Stock
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1-2 handfuls torn fresh spinach, chard or kale
2 cups grated aged cheddar or Gouda
1-2 slices sandwich bread, torn into chunks, or 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted butter (optional)

Cook the rigatoni in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions; set aside.

In a large, ovenproof skillet or medium saucepan, sauté the bacon or sausage (squeezed out of its casing) over medium-high heat until cooked through; add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the cream stock and thyme and bring to a simmer, then add the cheese and stir until smoothly blended into sauce. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until the greens wilt.

Add the cooked pasta noodles and stir to coat. If you’re using a pot, transfer to an ovenproof baking dish, otherwise leave it in the skillet. Toss the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan and oil, or pulse torn bread and Parmesan with the oil in a food processor until well blended. Sprinkle over the pasta and broil for 2 minutes, until golden. Serves 6.

This post was generously sponsored by Campbell’s, but the opinions and images are my own. For more quick and easy meals kids will love, visit CookwithCampbells.ca.

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March 04 2013 11:00 am | one dish and pasta

25 Responses to “Skillet Mac n’ Cheese with Spinach & Bacon”

  1. Kristin on 04 Mar 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Mmm…looks good. Especially with the mushrooms. I think I might be the only person in the world that doesn’t really like smoked paprika, though….sort of like saying you don’t like cheese. :)

  2. redforever on 04 Mar 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Hmmmn, not sure I have seen any of that cream stock. Is it readily available in stores now?

  3. Lyn on 04 Mar 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    I have never seen that stock. I am totally gonna check it out.

  4. Jen43 on 05 Mar 2013 at 8:37 am #

    That looks delicious!

  5. allegra on 05 Mar 2013 at 9:23 am #

    going to make this tonight.

  6. Julie on 05 Mar 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I just noticed the stock on store shelves recently, and now I’m seeing it everywhere! I bought some at Superstore and some at Co-op.

  7. Jan @ Family Bites on 05 Mar 2013 at 11:33 am #

    This looks SO good! I’m adding it to my meal plan for the weekend…it’ll be perfect for post-hockey eating.

  8. Beverley M on 05 Mar 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    “sandwich bread (it makes great use of the heels of bread that otherwise get tossed)”

    I found out an even better way! We don’t toss them anymore. It’s genious, and I wish I’d thought of it.

    Just turn that heel inside out. The outside of the loaf goes on the inside of your sandwhich. Weird texture issue with using the heel – solved.

  9. Julie on 05 Mar 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    oooh – what a brilliant idea! sometimes I spread them with peanut butter, douse in birdseed and hang from our trees outside. When I have the gumption!

  10. Lindsey on 05 Mar 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    OH MY! That looks delish! I love a good mac n cheese recipe :)

  11. Cheryl on 05 Mar 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    I’ve been doing almost the same thing lately. We’ve become quite addicted to bacon and tomato mac and cheese. I love that the bacon grease subs for the butter in the roux. mmm, bacon.

  12. Debbie on 06 Mar 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I made this recipe for dinner last night. It was delicious! I substituted Panko crumbs for the breadcrumbs. Thanks for providing us with so many inspiring ideas.

  13. Julie on 06 Mar 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Debbie – so glad to hear it! thanks for letting us know! And thanks for your kind words!

  14. Julie on 06 Mar 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Yes, bacon drippings work in so many things.. especially roux. Yummm…

  15. Christine on 06 Mar 2013 at 11:57 am #

    This looks delicious. I love the flexibility of this recipe. We all know how picky little eaters can be so it’s nice to have the option to adapt this to your own families’ likes (and dislikes!). I’m excited to check out this broth because I’ve never tried it before and it sounds like it could be used in so many different recipes. My husband loves anything with sausage and I’m a sucker for mac and cheese so I think this is something we’ll all love.

  16. Stephanie on 06 Mar 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    gah, it looks so creamy and delicious. I’m tempted to add it to the menu this week but my ultimate weakness is creamy pastas. I know exactly what would happen: I would eat all of it in one sitting. :(

  17. Alicen on 06 Mar 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Julie, I’m working in Calgary for the next week or so, staying downtown. Are there any “not to be missed” spots downtown that I should know about?

  18. Samantha @ Blissful Domesticity on 07 Mar 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    This looks delicious! I don’t know why, but I have never added bacon to my mac & cheese. I think it’s time to start.

  19. kathy on 08 Mar 2013 at 8:19 am #

    I made this on wednesday nite after seeing it on this site. I was surprised at the sauce…it was kinda bland. Wasn’t expecting it to be so I didn’t jazz it up with much. I used a leftover chicken breast from the night before instead of the bacon. And wouldn’t you just know it…when I made a comment of the blandness my daughter said “probably would be good with bacon” duhhhh. I forget about the jar of bacon drippings i have in the fridge. Should have used it. This is a great thing to add small bits of leftover veg into. I grated a zuccini and added about 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree. Even though the dish was a little on the bland side it went very well with spicy sausages that I wasn’t expecting to be so hot and spicy. I ate 1/2 a sausage with the pasta for b’fast yesterday and polished off the last of the pasta this morning with some hp sauce. This will be on the rotation menu. Thanks for posting it. The g’kids loved it. The parents loved it…and the g’parents loved it.

  20. Julie on 08 Mar 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I bet it would be really great with a spicy sausage cooked and crumbled in, flavouring the veggies and sauce. Yum. And I love that you have a jar of bacon drippings in the fridge!

  21. Janet in Phoenix on 11 Mar 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Hi, Julie!

    Just discovered your blog site and LOVE it! The photography and food are sooo spectacular and I have tried quite a few recipes with much success!

    Can’t seem to find this sauce in the States — it may be strictly in Canada now. I have been trying to find a web site to order it on but haven’t been able to locate one. Do you know of a site I can order online? I’d appreciate any help you can offer!

  22. Julie on 11 Mar 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Janet – hmm.. let me check into that for you!

  23. Maureen on 12 Mar 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Do you have another cookbook in the works? I love love love the bean one!

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