Macaroni and Cheese... with a twist

IMG_2958

Do you ever have those days when all you crave is something insanely rich and comforting? (Yes, like everyday...) Do you ever want something thick and cheesy and carb-y? (Always) If you answered no, then you should probably just look away from this recipe right now. It may be more than you can handle. BUT, if you are one of those people who enjoys a delicious, cheesy masterpiece, let me introduce you to the most glorious macaroni and cheese I have ever come upon. This recipe was borrowed from the Food Network's Ina Garten. It is an insane mix of tasty cheese, pasta, roasted tomatoes, and crispy breadcrumbs.

I used whole-wheat penne for this recipe. I try to cook with whole-wheat pasta whenever I am able because it has a lot more fiber and nutrients than white pasta.

 

In Ina's original recipe, she calls for only two cheeses: Gruyere, a sharp Swiss-like cheese, and Cheddar. Because I didn't have Gruyere, I substituted one of my favorite cheeses, Dubliner. I would best describe Dubliner cheese as a cross between a Parmesan and a cheddar cheese with a slight hint of sweetness. If you are unable to find cheese like Gruyere or Dubliner, call your grocery and complain that they are keeping these delicious morsels from you and they should be ashamed. After that, I would recommend using a swiss, a variety of cheddars, or any other firm, melting cheese that you like.

 

In your pot, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter. To the melted butter, you are going to whisk in the flour. This is the beginning of your roux (pronounced "rhoo"). The flour will at first be slightly clumpy, but it will whisk out to look like a smooth sauce.

After that, you are going to add your hot milk and stir until the mixture has thickened

 

To the milk mixture, add your combination of cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg

 

Stir, stir, stir. It doesn't have to be super combined because it does get rather thick, but something like this will work.

 

Add your cooked pasta

 

And stir...

 

Pour the heaping mess into a baking dish.

 

Cover the macaroni and cheese with the sliced tomatoes and buttered bread crumbs. Bake it for 30-40 minutes (depending on your casserole dish and oven) or until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly at the edges.

I always keep homemade bread crumbs on hand. I make it from stale, toasted bread that I then grind in the food processor. If you'd like to use bread crumbs purchased from the store to make it a little easier, go for it (they are usually in the pasta sauce section of the store).

 

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and Breadcrumbs (Lightly adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)

Serves 6 to 8 really hungry people

Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne, macaroni, or other tiny-ish pasta
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided into 6 and 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces *Dubliner Cheese*, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces Colby-Jack Cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
  • 1 cup of plain or Italian breadcrumbs (you can purchase already made italian breadcrumbs at the grocery store)
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it.
  4. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  5. Off the heat, add the Dubliner, Cheddar, and Colby Jack Cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  6. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

*I really loved the Dubliner cheese in this, but if you are unable to find it, try adding Gruyere (this is what Ina used in the original recipe). You can also use swiss cheese or a white cheddar. But for the most part it's up to you and your taste preferences.