For me macaroni and cheese is the quintessential comfort food. Growing up as a kid I felt my mother made the best ever macaroni and cheese and so did many of my friends who were invited for dinner. I made her recipe for my kids when they were growing up. They all love macaroni and cheese.
They also liked that boxed variety with the orange dehydrated stuff and often made it themselves as they got older. It became comfort food for them as well and took minutes to make. I did not have the boxed kind growing up. In our house it was strictly home made and I looked forward to that particular meal.
Yesterday my husband suggested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. We had both been tackling long needed cleaning projects in our home and I just was not in the mood for laboring over making sauce and meatballs. Knowing that I had everything I needed I suggested macaroni and cheese. That idea was readily accepted and I was a happy camper as well. A while back I came up with a method for making macaroni and cheese that instead of taking hours to make and bake (like Mom's), it took under an hour.
To say it's delicious is an understatement. So in homage to Mom and to change it up a bit I added in some tomatoes. Each year at the end of tomato season we gather the last of the ripe tomatoes and I can them in pint jars. I blanch to remove the skins and cut them up into quarters for smaller ones and into more pieces on the larger tomatoes. The tomato makes a wonderful addition to macaroni and cheese. If you don't have your owned canned tomatoes, use whole canned tomatoes from the grocery store.
- 2 - 10 oz. bars seriously sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 box penne pasta - cooked to manufacturer's directions
- 1 - 14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- cooking spray
- Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 375 °.
- Get your water started in a pot for the pasta.
- While the water is heating up, make a roux by melting the butter in a medium sauce pot over medium to medium low heat. When the butter is almost melted add in the flour and cook and whisk for about 2 - 3 minutes until you cook out the raw flour taste. To the roux, slow pour in the milk and keep whisking until incorporated fully. Turn the heat down to low.
- Using a box grater or an attachment on your food processor, shred 1 full bar of cheddar cheese and just about 1/3 of the second bar. Wrap the remaining cheese in plastic and store in the refrigerator.
- By this time the pasta water is probably boiling, so add your salt to taste to the pasta water and cook to manufacturer's directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, add in some of the shredded cheese and keep whisking until it melts. I put in about 2/3rds of the cheese in the sauce.
- Drain your pasta and rinse under cold water. Spray your casserole with cooking spray.
- Finish melting in more cheese if you haven't done so already.
- Using the same pasta pot add the pasta back in and pour in the cheese sauce you've made. Add in the can of whole tomatoes, breaking them down with your hands if need be and add in the juice as well. Stir to combine and pour all of it into your sprayed casserole dish. Take the rest of the cheese and place it on the top.
- Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Set the oven to broil and broil for about 5-7 minutes until the tops is bubbly and golden brown.
Approximate cost of this meal: $8.29. I got the cheese on sale, I figured in the cost of tomatoes if you have to purchase them (on sale price). Feeds 6 or more portions.
You might also like this recipe from my blog: