Macaroni and Cheese with Zesty Tomatoes
- Yield 8 servings
Start with a creamy béchamel sauce, add cheese and tomatoes, then bake until gloriously browned and bubbly.
- Zesty Tomato Mixture:
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Macaroni and Cheese Sauce:
- 1 pound uncooked pasta such as small shells or penned
- Salt, to taste
- Water for cooking pasta
- 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or soy margarine
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups 2-percent milk, warmed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- 1 cup shredded sharp low-fat cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded low-fat monterey jack cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese
- 2 slices sourdough or whole-wheat bread or 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
- To make tomato mixture: Heat oil in a nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, jalapeno, tomato and oregano and cook 2 minutes. Set aside.
- To make macaroni and sauce: Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water 5 to 6 minutes until tender but al dente. Drain and rinse immediately in ice cold water to stop cooking. Place pasta in a nonreactive large mixing bowl.
- Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and combine well. Cook over low heat, stirring, 2 minutes until a roux or paste is formed. Add warmed milk, bay leaf, mustard and hot sauce; whisk to combine.
- Bring to a boil, continuing to stir well. Reduce heat to simmer and, stirring constantly, cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheeses. Stir for 1 minute until cheeses melt and sauce appears creamy and smooth. Pour over cooked pasta and mix well. Stir in tomato mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
- If using bread slices for topping, process in a blender or a food processor fitted with metal blade until they make crumbs. Sprinkle casserole with bread or cracker crumbs and bake, uncovered, 25 minutes.
Want more help? Check out this step-by-step video on making béchamel sauce.