Caprese Mac ‘n Cheese

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If you love homemade macaroni and cheese but not the time it takes to make it, this is the dish for you. I think of it as middle of the week comfort food. The recipe is from Cooking Light so it is a healthier version of an old standby but it is so flavorful that you would never know that it is good for you. A combination of cheese, in this case mozzarella and parmesan makes the sauce taste rich while the roasted tomatoes add a deeper flavor than expected. And because the tomatoes are mixed right in, your kids will be so busy scooping up the pasta and sauce that they won’t even realize they are eating tomatoes. (At least that is the case in my house). Serve it with a salad—a Caprese salad would continue with the theme–and dinner is good to go.

CAPRESE MAC ‘n CHEESE

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces uncooked penne, or other small tubular shaped pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons panko crumbs
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Preheat the broiler to high.
  • Combine the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Leave the broiler on.
  • Cook the pasta in a large saucepan according to package instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the flour then add in the milk, salt and pepper, stirring continually with a wire whisk.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer then good for 1 minute or  until the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheeses until blended.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and toss well.
  • Add the tomatoes and torn basil to the pasta and fold well to combine.
  • Spoon the pasta mixture into 4 6-ounce gratin dishes which have been coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle the top of each dish with the panko crumbs and the crushed red pepper.
  • Broil for 2 minute or until the panko is browned.
  • Garnish with additional basil leaves if desired.
Serves 4
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