Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fancy Mac 'n Cheese with Tomatoes and Thyme

I'm busy getting my life back together (again) after a long weekend in Austin, TX. So I thought I'd entertain you by sharing literally the best mac and cheese I've ever made. I can't believe I made this on Christmas Eve and I haven't shared it with you yet, but I guess it's because I've been on a healthy kick and the thought of posting about a recipe that uses whole milk and 4 different types of cheese just didn't seem right. But we all need a little cheese in our life, and go ahead and bookmark this recipe for the next holiday when you know you'll want to cook, and knock your guests off their feet.

I actually doubled this recipe and made 2 casserole dishes of the mac and cheese. I served one at Christmas Eve and then froze the other dish and brought it on our New Years Trip. Both times it got two thumbs up from everyone! The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, who can do no wrong when it comes to baking, so there's no surprise it turned out so well. Let me know if you try it!

Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 8

8 ounces elbow macaroni
1/2 cup bread crumbs (the Martha recipe tells you to make your own)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup), 1/3 cup reserved for topping
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups), 1/3 cup reserved for topping
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup), 1/2 cup reserved for topping
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
For topping:
thyme sprigs
thinly sliced tomatoes (about 1.5 tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta according to package directions, removing 2 to 3 minutes before time is up. Drain well.

Meanwhile make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, add the chopped onion and saute until it becomes translucent. Add the flour and whisk. Cook until it bubbles - about 45 seconds. Pour in the milk and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a simmer and stir with a spoon until thickened (about 4 minutes). Add the mozzarella, 2/3 of the Gruyere, 1 2/3 cups grated cheddar, 1/2 cup Parmesan. Stir until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg and stir.

Add pasta to sauce and stir to combine. Pour into a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with bread crumbs, and then top with tomato slices and thyme. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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