This is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I love it with some stewed tomatoes added to it, that’s how I grew up eating it.  The tomatoes cut the richness and give some extra flavor, but if you don’t like tomatoes, don’t add them.  When making the creamy cheese sauce, use whatever milk you like or have on hand, skim, whole, 2%..I have been known to mix milks, that is, use what’s left of my whole milk and top up with skim.  The same goes for the cheese, use whatever you have on hand or is a favorite in your family.  

Baked Macaroni and Cheese w/ Tomatoes

Prep time:  20 minutes

Cooking time:  30 minutes

Serves:  6

Ingredients:

4 cups raw elbow pasta or macaroni

2 cups grated cheese ( I prefer cheddar or gruyere)

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons butter

3 cups hot milk ( I just heat it up in the microwave for 3 minutes)

1  14 oz can of diced stewed tomatoes(if you have whole stewed tomatoes, just cut up before you add them)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1.  Bring to a boil, salted water for the elbow macaroni(other options are penne or rotini, any cut pasta).  Use a bigger sized pot for this, a 16 quart pot would work.

2.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

3.   While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil,  take around a 2 quart pot, add 3 tablespoons of butter on medium heat and let melt, then add the 3 tablespoons of flour, mix well.  

4.  Heat milk in microwave proof measuring cup for 3 minutes.

5.  Slowly pour half the hot milk into the butter/flour( a roux) mixture while mixing with a whisk.  Once you have all the lumps out and it is a smooth consistency, add the rest of the milk.  Mix well.  Continue to whisk until the milk mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Now turn the heat down to low.  You have now made a béchamel sauce.  

6.  Add the 2 cups of grated cheese to the bechamel,  let it melt in, the sauce will become pretty thick.  Add salt and pepper.

7.  Add pasta to the boiling salted water and mix well so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Cook for around 8 minutes.  Don’t overcook the pasta because you will be cooking it again in the oven when you bake it, strain when the pasta is a la dente or has a bite.  

8.  Strain the pasta well, put the pasta back into the big pot, then add the cheese sauce and diced stewed tomatoes.  Mix well and taste, add more salt and pepper if needs be.

9.  Then pour entire mixture into a 9 x 12(8x 11 would also work) heatproof glass or ceramic dish.  Put on the middle rack in the oven for 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

10.  Cool for 5 minutes and serve.

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