Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Best Macaroni and Cheese I Have Ever Made

There are two groups of people: those that divide the world into two groups and those that don't. I fall into the first. So there are also two other groups of people: those that like tomatoes in their macaroni and cheese and those that think you have to be out of your frickin' mind. I am in the former. My kids, sadly, the latter. So, I kept making the same macaroni hoping, one day, my kids would learn to love tomatoes, in some form other than ketchup, with their macaroni.

Then I hit upon the solution: serve the tomatoes on the side. Not only do you get to have that great acidic hit of cooked tomato with the gooey cheese, but by adding a hint of spice to the tomatoes via red chili flakes, I can add the zip that my children are not yet ready for in their mac and cheese. 

This brainwave occurred to me courtesy of my sister (the source of many of my brainwaves, truth be told). She had recently adapted a recipe for Pasta with Eggplant-Tomato Relish in the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food. By omitting the eggplant, she had found an easy way to make up a richly flavoured tomato sauce for tossing with pasta or, in her case, serving with Chicken Parmesan. That day she told me was the day I found the solution to my boring macaroni.

She and I both used oregano, but the original dish calls for cumin. I think you could make a lovely Mexican style one with cumin and turmeric, especially if you stirred in  a bunch of chopped cilantro and some diced red onion at the end.

Macaroni and Cheese with Spicy Tomato Jam

Ingredients for the macaroni and cheese:

1 (8 ounce) package macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups good quality cheddar cheese (or a combination of  cheddar with other cheeses you like, such as gruyere, swiss, parmesan,or jack), shredded
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
2 or 3 tablespoons butter in knobs (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk until well blended. Pour in milk and cream gradually, stirring constantly. Bring to boil and boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, 10 minutes. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Turn off the heat. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.
  3. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and butter if you are using it. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Ingredients for the spicy tomato jam:

1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
red pepper flakes, to taste (remember, you can add more later but you can't take them out)
1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (or use the 400 degree oven and cook it with the macaroni - just do it for a little longer)
  2. Toss all ingredients together in a ceramic or glass baking dish and put in oven.
  3. Roast until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
  4. Squeeze garlic out of skins and chop or mash and then add back to the sauce.
  5. Adjust for salt and pepper if necessary.
  6.  Serve with macaroni.
Serves 4 to 6.

Note: The day after I made this dish I was paging through my new Pink Ribbon Diet book and found a very similar recipe for Roasted Canned Tomatoes. It uses a bit more olive oil and roasts for longer at 425, about 55 minutes.

Feedback from eaters: "Mom, this is great. Two thumbs up." "God, this is fantastic."


  1. Cyn, This sounds really really delicious. I'm going to have to print this off. Thank you. Good idea for another blog! You have such great recipes to share. It's nice you have that built in test taste group with your boys as well!!

  2. Thanks, Nancy! I'll be sure to keep posting now that I know you're reading. :-) Happy eating.