Macaroni and cheese is one of those meals that brings people together. I’ll share a box of store-brand elbows and cheddar with my niece just as readily as I’ll dive into a dish of homemade cheesy baked pasta. That being said, there is a perfect balance that I’m always trying to reach: ooey-gooey cheese sauce, al dente pasta, rich savory flavor, a few veggies, and not a lot of hands-on work. After all, it’s mac ‘n’ cheese, not boeuf bourguignon. Martha Stewart’s Baked Broccoli-and-Artichoke Shells hits all of those notes, and it has some bacon thrown in for good measure. That sounds like a weeknight win to us.
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It’s really so easy to make. The first step is par-cooking your shell pasta and broccoli. Then, you mix up a simple sauce made from milk, white cheddar cheese, and Parmigiano. It has a sharp bite to it, but is still luscious and creamy enough to coat the pasta, broccoli, artichokes, and crispy pieces of bacon you stir into it before transfering everything to a baking dish.
Le Creuset Stoneware Heritage Square Dish
This might be a controversial take, but we’ll also say that if you’re pressed for time, you can skip the baking step entirely. My family prefers unbaked mac and cheese, so I’ll often just toast up some panko breadcrumbs in a pan to scatter on top of the mac and cheese once the pasta and add-ins have been combined with the cheese sauce, and that way everyone’s happy.
Kikkoman Panko Japanese Style Bread Crumbs
That being said, if you like a firmer mac and cheese, proceed with the baking step. Transfer the pasta into a baking dish, then sprinkle the top with a combination of panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, with some crispy bits around the edges – after all, if you *are* going to bake your pasta, you want some of that toasted cheese flavor.
The end result? Pasta, broccoli, and artichokes in a sauce that’s so dreamy, creamy, and cheesy, even kids who are usually squeamish about veggies won’t mind eating them. The pieces of crispy bacon dotted throughout don’t hurt, either!
In less than 45 minutes, you’ve got a hearty fall and winter meal the whole family will love, and it didn’t come from a box. As Stewart would say: “It’s a good thing!”
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Watch: We Tried Ina Garten’s Overnight Mac & Cheese & We Totally Get Why It Broke the Internet
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