It’s raining today, which is heavenly. Fall is my favorite time of year, especially for cooking. Soup! Casseroles! And, of course, macaroni and cheese.
I came up with this recipe when I needed to use up a bunch of cheese (I always have too much cheese on hand, it’s a sickness) and we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes and basil from the garden. It’s modeled on Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese recipe, except it’s not baked (I prefer stovetop macaroni and cheese), and I use–gasp!–American and cheddar cheeses.
Listen: American cheese is simply the finest cheese for macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese, and I won’t hear anything different. It melts smoothly and doesn’t separate. Paired with a good sharp cheddar, it is freakin’ amazing! End rant.
Since this macaroni and cheese is not baked, I decided to oven-roast the tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil. The results were . . . sublime. My husband took one bite and told me I got my cheese mixture perfect for the sauce. Thank god I weighed everything so I can preserve this momentous achievement for everyone to share! Ahem. I get excited about macaroni and cheese.
Creamy Macaroni & Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes
6 oz American cheese (I used Kraft Deli slices, which at least aren’t individually wrapped), chopped or shredded
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups milk (plus more to taste)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb rotini (or your choice of pasta) or, use 1/2 lb pasta and save half the cheese sauce for cheeseburger mac, another recipe I will post soon!
For the roasted tomatoes:
1 lb fresh tomatoes, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil, julienned
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay tomatoes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Roast for one hour. Remove, let cool, and reserve for macaroni and cheese.
Place a large pan of water on to boil. Heat the milk gently in a small saucepan, but don’t bring it to a boil. Melt butter in a second large pot or saute pan 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. Remove from heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Meanwhile, add salt to your large pan of boiling water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add pasta to your sauce, adding milk if necessary to achieve a smooth, creamy texture.
Spoon into a bowl and top with oven roasted tomatoes. Prepare to go to heaven!