Who doesn’t like Mac and Cheese? Yet it’s sad to see so many people still consider the commercial version an option!
Homemade Mac and Cheese is actually quite easy to make and the result will always be so much better than any commercial type.
Here I’ve added a few additions and changes to the classic recipe. The first is the use of Tri-Color Rotini pasta, instead of the traditional elbow pasta, both for a more colorful result and for it’s ability to hold better to the sauce.
Other additions are whole grain mustard, prosciutto and homemade oven-dried cherry tomatoes – all add their unique flavors and textures to the dish.
To shorten the process, you can use ready made Sun-Dried tomatoes, but it’s nice to know that making oven-dried cherry tomatoes is really effortless and by making it at home you can use different types and colors, which is always fun.
You can add other flavorings, or omit them altogether, as long as you remember that the dish is only as good as the cheeses you put in it.
I always prefer to buy the cheese in a block and grate it, or chop it finely in a food processor before using. (Adding a bit of flour when chopping, helps to keep the cheese from sticking together.)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
1 package (12oz, 340 grams) Tri-Color Rotini pasta
For the pan
2 Tbs butter, soft
2 Tbs breadcrumbs
For the cheese sauce
½ stick (55 grams) butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 Tbs whole grain Dijon mustard
3 cups coarsely grated cheeses (I used Gruyere, Parmesan and Pecorino)
1 cup oven-dried cherry tomatoes (or sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped)
3 oz (90 grams) Prosciutto, roughly cut
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, until it is cooked through, about 8 minutes or as directed on the package. Drain and keep on the side.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Butter the pan and sprinkle the bottom with 1 Tbs of the breadcrumbs. Grate or process the cheeses in a food processor.
3. Prepare the cheese sauce: melt the butter in a large pan on medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Add the milk, while whisking continuously to prevent lumps. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the cheeses, salt, pepper and mustard and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, mixing gently, to melt the cheese.
4. Turn off the heat and add the dried tomatoes, prosciutto, the nutmeg and cayenne. Mix gently and transfer the mixture to the pan. Sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumbs on top.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Let rest for 2-3 minutes before cutting.
Oven-Dried Cherry Tomatoes
The process is very simple: preheat the oven to 200F (100C), cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them in one layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt and place in the oven for 2-3 hours, or until the tomatoes are dried but still a bit moist. Keep in a loosely covered container and use within 7-10 days. Since Cherry tomatoes are available year round, I don’t see the point in making a huge amount. However, if you end up with more than you can use in a short time, place the dried tomatoes in a jar, add olive oil to cover and cover tightly. Keep in a cool dark place for 1-2 months.
Here are a few “before and after” photos: