It's Monday, I made food...that just happened to be meatless. I'm pretty sure that with this pregnancy Brent was certain my cooking days went out the window along with the mopping and vacuuming. But, the boy was wrong (mostly).
Lately, I have wanted comfort food. But, when I think of comfort food, it usually means I'm heating up my house by turning on the oven. Uh, no thank you. This summer heat is oven enough for me thankyouverymuch.
Anyway, the other day in my attempt to satisfy my comfort food longings, I decided I'd give homemade mac n' cheese a try. There is a restaurant in Iowa (Atlas in Iowa City) that has the best grown-up mac'n cheese e.v.e.r. But, It's like over an hour away, so I decided to try to replicate it. My favorite part about their mac is the roasted tomato compote they pile in the middle of the creamy pasta dish. Oh my goodness, it's amazing and compliments the rich cheesy sauce perfectly!
While I'd go back to Atlas in a heartbeat, I think our attempt turned out pretty awesome! It was so creamy and totally hit the spot! I do have a few particulars when it comes to the cheese:
1. It has to be freshly grated. I don't like pre-packaged shredded cheese because of that powdery stuff they put in there to keep the cheese from sticking together...it grosses me out.
2. No stringy, oily mess.
3. Use at least two complimenting kinds of cheese for a richer flavor.
Other than that, I'm easy to please! I should note, that though this dish is meatless, it is definitely NOT low-cal. It's for sure a splurge.
Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Tomato Compote
Pasta and Sauce Ingredients:
12 oz. whole wheat elbow pasta (I used whole wheat penne because that's what I had)
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. flour
1/4 minced onion
1 1/2 C. milk (I used skim )
1 C. chicken broth (vegetable broth works great!)
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used mild cheddar and Monterrey jack. Gruyere or Fontina would be awesome!)
Toasted Breadcrumb Topping:
1/4 breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat bread I had on hand that I buzzed in the food processor)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. (or less) melted butter
dash of garlic powder
Roasted Tomato Compote:
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I used Hunts brand)
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until slightly tender. Don't overcook or it will be soggy in the cheese sauce.
While the pasta is cooking, pour the can of roasted tomatoes into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, slightly mashing the tomatoes as it cooks and the liquid reduces (about 10-15 minutes). You want the tomatoes to be cooked down and slightly thickened.
In a small skillet, melt the butter for the breadcrumb topping. Add the breadcrumbs and cook on low until slightly toasted. Remove breadcrumbs to a dish to cool slightly before tossing with Parmesan and garlic powder. Set aside.
In a large heavy skillet, melt the butters. Saute the onion in the butter until softened. Add flour and cook for about a minute until the flour is combined and golden. Slowly add one cup of milk stirring until the sauce starts to thicken. Next add the chicken broth, again, stirring and cooking until it becomes slightly thickened. If the sauce mixture is getting too thick you can add the remaining 1/2 C. of milk, although I have not needed it in the past. You want the sauce to be creamy, but not too thick or too runny.
Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until completely melted. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the macaroni, and pour it into a baking dish. Top macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs (at this point, you can broil it in the oven to make it even more browned if you wish).
Top individual servings with roasted tomato compote.