Monday, October 31, 2011

Baked Mac & Cheese with Heirloom Tomatoes

Happy Halloween! I realize that a pumpkin-related post would be more relevant today (and I actually made a recipe with sugar pumpkin last night that I'll be posting soon) but I wanted to get this recipe up before it's too late to find the last tomatoes. We recently joined a CSA through Full Belly Farm and I'm already in love with it after the first two weeks of boxes. Here in Northern California (where it was 75 degrees today) we are still getting the last bits of some indian summer produce, and I was lucky enough to get a few beautiful tomatoes from our CSA box over the past two weeks. Given that they are a little past their peak, I thought they'd be best incorporated in a dish rather than on their own, and they were absolutely delicious as an accent in this baked mac n' cheese. If the tomatoes near you don't look good, try stirring in another vegetable instead, such as roasted butternut squash, steamed/sauteed broccoli, or you could even use diced canned tomatoes (rinsed of their juices). We ate half of this for dinner along with a green salad one night, then had the rest for lunch for leftovers for lunch the next day, and it was equally delicious!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Heirloom Tomatoes
Serves 4

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

8 oz. brown rice, whole wheat, or regular dried macaroni noodles (I used brown rice macaroni noodles that I found at the store but regular or whole wheat macaroni would also work well)
3 T. flour
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. lowfat milk
1 bay leaf
8 oz. sharp cheddar (preferably lighter in color, not orange), grated
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped (or other vegetable of your choice)
1 1/2 - 2 slices whole wheat bread, torn and pulsed in a food processor or blender until breadcrumbs form

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8x8 inch baking pan with olive oil or butter.

Heat a pot of boiling water and cook the noodles about 1-2 minutes less than the stated cooking time. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute 15 seconds, then whisk in the flour, continuing to whisk for about 2 more minutes. Then, gradually whisk in the milk, whisking constantly to ensure that that everything combines without clumps forming. Add the bay leaf and continue cooking until the pasta is done, whisking occasionally.

Drain the pasta, then stir in most of the cheese into the saucepan with the milk, then add the noodles, tomato/vegetable, and 1 t. salt. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish (it will be saucy, but this will all bake together) and top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs down slightly into the top of the macaroni mixture (the top should be well coated with breadcrumbs).  Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling, then remove from the oven and let sit a few minutes before serving.

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