Macaroni. Where do I start? It’s one of my favorite things, and it’s also one of the first things the boy and I made together nearly two years ago (d’awwww). We’re not talking blue box Kraft macaroni here, people. No, this is legit: start with a béchamel, fold in some fancy cheeses, top with bread crumbs and bake it so it gets all brown, crispy, bubbly, and ridiculous.
When I went to my garden last week, handfuls of tomatoes, both big and small, were ready to be picked. After having my fill of tomato salads, I decided these tomatoes deserved something special. Special and cheesy.
Double Tomato Pepperjack Macaroni Bake
Adapted from Cooking Light.
- 2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup pepperjack cheese
- 2 tablespoons marscapone cheese
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1-2 medium-sized roma or beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until it forms a paste. Pour in the milk, bring it to a low boil, and stir for about five minutes. The sauce will thicken so that as you whisk you will be able to see the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, basil and cheeses. Stir the slice cherry tomatoes into the sauce, then add the cooked macaroni.
Pour the mixture into an 8×8 inch pan, top with the tomato slices, and then sprinkle on the panko and parmesan. Drizzle the top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the top is golden.
Crunch through the breadcrumbs, then let the slightly spicy cheese-covered cherry tomatoes just pop in your mouth. For a tomato and cheese lover, this is heaven. Truly.
The prep time is about 10 minutes, and then you just have to wait for it to bake. Why would you even bother with the Kraft box? The only scenario where grabbing the box makes sense is if you’re hungover. In that instance I agree that it. is. amazing. Otherwise, buck up and make your own.
What’s funny is the boy loves boxed mac and cheese. He buys it all the time, and not even the Kraft kind. Nope, he buys the $.64 Cub Foods brand. This is horrific to me. At LEAST buy the name brand and/or the organic [trying to act healthy] brand. When he reaches for this box I usually stop him and whip up a recipe similar to what I have posted here…just out of principle.
You’d pay a good $10 for this macaroni in a restaurant, so not only is this recipe economical, but it’s adaptable; you can switch up the cheese and veggies depending on what you have in your fridge. The recipe that the boy and I tried on one of our first dates included fontina and marscapone. I’ve made it with goat cheese and cheddar, feta and parmesan, and put spinach and mushrooms in it…seriously anything goes.
Sure, I ate boxed macaroni all the time growing up, but the boy and I call this version our “grownup mac and cheese.” If you’re a grownup, shouldn’t your mac and cheese be grownup too? Well, unless you’re hungover…or the boy when he’s craving that artificial cheese goodness.