Monday, August 22, 2011

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes and Basil

It's a whole new level of macaroni and cheese. Here roasted tomatoes and onions are added to the classic along with a handful of chopped fresh basil. Yum! Cherry tomatoes work nicely here; leave them whole if small or slice in half if large.

1 large red onion, sliced or coarsely chopped
2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (room temperature is best)
8 oz. shredded cheddar
1 lb cut pasta (shells are good)
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the onion and tomatoes in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast for about 25 minutes, until tender and rich in flavor. Remove from the oven.

While the vegetables roast, make the sauce. Start by making a classic white sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan or deep skillet, then stir in the flour. Keeping the heat very low, whisk it constantly as it browns and thickens, bubbling. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time, over low heat. Whisk constantly until the sauce thickens a bit, then raise the heat to medium until the sauce reaches a simmer. Turn the heat down again at that point and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (you can switch to a spoon for this).

While the white sauce cooks, boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water.

After the sauce has simmered for its 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the cheese, a handful or so at a time, until it melts. Stir in the vegetables and the basil. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir to coat evenly. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

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