The seasonings were also interesting. Most mac and cheese use either hot sauce, mustard, and/or cayenne pepper as is the case of this recipe to make the flavors pop. But, I've never seen tomato paste in a macaroni and cheese recipe before. It added a welcome depth to this classic dish. As it only calls for one tablespoon, I was very glad to have a handy stock of frozen tomato paste cubes in just that size. If you haven't tried it yet, next time you open a can, just measure them into tablespoon sized portions and freeze. When you need them, pop them out and add to your dish. No more waste!
As I was combining the noodles with the sauce I was seriously salivating from the smell. So, I decided to "cheat" and sneak a bite (anyone else do this?) before I put it into the oven to finish. This is when I got *really* excited. It tasted even better than it smelled! I was tempted to stop right then and there but alas, I had to continue to be true to the recipe that was submitted. And I'm glad I did that because the crunchy topping on this macaroni was really good (and pretty!), too!
My verdict? Definitely worthy of an upcoming Thanksgiving side dish slot or just for the next time you're craving the comforts of macaroni and cheese. Thank you so much Stacey for sharing!
I hope you've been sharing and then commenting on each of my Mac and Cheese Mondays posts so you can enter to win one of two great cookbooks: Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown or Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin! See this page for full contest details.
One Year Ago: Cheesy Italian Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
Three Years Ago: Home Fries and Beach Shrimp
Smoked Macaroni and Cheese
Yields: 8-10 servings
- 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 2 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese, divided
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 4 oz country-style bread
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 lb rigatoni, cooked slightly under al dente and drained
- Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a large rectangular baking dish.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the 4 tablespoons butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the tomato paste. Add 1 1/2 cups of each cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
- Tear the bread into crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta and cheese sauce then pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and the buttered bread crumbs. Bake until the cheeses are golden and bubbly, about 40 minutes. If the top becomes too dark, cover with aluminum foil. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Source: Slightly adapted from William's Sonoma as submitted by Stacey