Comfort food doesn’t get more simple or savory than this one-skillet side dish. Toasted breadcrumbs provide crunch as well as extra bite with smoked paprika. Cheddar makes for an old-fashioned baked mac & cheese with crispy edges and a gooey center, but just about any cheese would work well in its place.
1 cup uncooked mini shells
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup panko or coarse breadcrumbs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 cup half-and-half
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar
Kosher salt, to taste
Heat oven to 400° F. Bring a 4-quart pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Field No.4 Skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 4–5 minutes. Stir in paprika, transfer breadcrumbs to a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and mustard powder and whisk until nutty and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and cook until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and fold in cooked pasta until evenly coated.
Top with reserved breadcrumbs and bake until bubbling and golden, 10–12 minutes.