Mark is back working nights (in addition to tourist season picking up in Boston), which means every night is #girlsnight in our house, and Georgia and I can cook whatever we want. This week, that meant gooey mac n’ cheese with the subtle heat of pepper jack and fire-roasted tomatoes.
I love Muir Glen canned organic diced tomatoes and got this recipe from their website, adapting it a bit to our cheese preferences. We served it with steamed green beans and pink lemonade. (I did mention I dined with a three-year-old, right?) This is a simple weeknight dinner that makes plenty of tasty leftovers for the week. Adjust the mixture of cheeses to give it more or less kick, however you like it. We like it a little bit hot!
In this recipe, I used almond milk and whole wheat flour. You could, of course, use regular dairy milk or another non-dairy substitute, and regular flour. I also used a ratio of 8 ounces cheddar cheese to 8 ounces hot pepper jack cheese; you can adjust this however you like as long as the total equals 16 ounces (8 oz = 2 cups). Other good cheese options would be White Cheddar and Monterey Jack, or if you don’t want any kick whatsoever from the cheese, havarti or gouda. You just need a good melter.
Fire Roasted Tomato Mac n’ Cheese
- 1 box uncooked penne pasta (16 oz, or 5 cups)
- 2 1/2 cups milk (I used almond)
- 1 cup light cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups shredded pepper Jack cheese (12 oz)
- 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
- 1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 4 eggs, beaten
For the topping:
- 2 TBSP butter, melted
- 1 cup panko crispy bread crumbs
Heat the oven to 350°F and spray 9×13 inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain the pasta. In a large measuring cup, mix the milk and the cream.
In a large pot such as a Dutch oven, melt the 1/4 cup of butter over low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. With a whisk, stir in the flour and salt until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling.
Gradually stir in the milk mixture and heat until boiling, again stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, still stirring, then reduce the heat and stir in the cheeses. Cook until melted, stirring occasionally.
Stir the drained cooked pasta and the canned tomatoes into the cheese sauce. Remove from the heat. Add the whisked eggs to the pasta mixture, stirring constantly until all blended. Pour the mixture into your glass baking dish
In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients (panko and melted butter); sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until the pasta is bubbly and the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Serve warm with the salad or vegetable side of your choice.
Panko are Japanese-style breadcrumbs. They have a lighter texture that I love atop macaroni and cheese recipes. Regular breadcrumbs of any seasoning would also work just fine here.
This recipe also called for heavy whipping cream, but I chose to lighten it up a bit by using light cream instead, and it came out just as creamy as I’d hoped.
I also chose salted butter; either that or unsalted butter is fine. I minced my garlic to make it less intense. If you mince it, the flavor will be stronger than slicing or chopping, which you could also do here. I love the flavor of garlic, but minced is easier for Georgia and Mark to digest, as they share a genetic disposition to reflux, and raw garlic is a top trigger for anyone with acid.
I hope your taxes are done (!) and you’re able to enjoy some beautiful spring weather like we finally have in Boston these days. We spent the last weekend doing some touristy stuff with family to celebrate the end of winter, and I’ll be sharing about that soon. Boston on a gorgeous spring day like we had this past weekend and on Marathon Monday is simply amazing. This city will suck you in on a day like that if you aren’t careful, and before you know it you’ve decided to move here and winter is rolling up to show you what you’re really in for! Like a baby that sleeps through the night early and tricks you into having more kids, haha. Enjoy the rest of your week everyone, especially if you’re off for school vacation, and I’ll be back again soon. xoxo