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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese alla Us

Like most things, we tweak our mac around here. I've always made macaroni and cheese like my Mom did, and I'm devoted to that recipe. It will always be my favorite, but we all know that a degree of compromise is at the heart of every great marriage, so I've made some changes to accommodate my husband's preferences.

I've never actually had his mother's macaroni and cheese, but he describes it as being distinctly tomatoey, which is something heretofore unheard of. Tomatoes! In macaroni and cheese?


I balked at first. I didn't want to mess with my childhood, y'know? In the end, I agreed to attempt a tomatoey version. Not too tomatoey. It was a great leap of faith for me to believe him; such a thing is delicious, he says. Hrm.

Well here it is, what I believe to be the perfect balance of traditional mac meets tomatoes, without corrupting the essential recipe. As an added bonus, Mark likes it!

Macaroni & Cheese Alla Us

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 medium yellow onion, diced, but not too diced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 T. flour
1 t. ground dry mustard
2 c. milk (pick your percentage poison, I prefer 1%)
1 pound Land O Lakes White American cheese, purchased from the deli counter, in a block, and cubed (swear to god, it matters!)
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes, drained

Okay, here's where it get's cheffy and stuff. Not really.

Put up a big pot of water. Bring it to a boil. Salt it generously. Add the pasta. When it comes back to a boil, knock the heat down a little, and set a timer for 6 minutes. When the time's up,drain the elbows, and rinse them so they don't get gluey while you're making the sauce.

Now, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large, oven safe Dutch oven, saute the onions in butter over medium to medium high heat until they're soft and translucent. You don't want to brown either the onions or the butter. Add the flour and the dru mustard to the pan, and stir continually, until you have a pale golden roux (flour + butter paste). Add the milk all in a go, and scrape the bottom of the pan, then keep stirring as the mixture comes to a boil. It'll thicken like crazy, so you might want to lower the heat. Add the cheese and stir until it's all smooth and creamy. Season with salt and white pepper.

Pour in the pasta, stirring to coat the elbows well in the cheese sauce.

Add the drained stewed tomatoes, and gently fold them into the mac 'n cheese. You don't want them completely blended. You want pockets of tomatoes, and not too many pink streaks.

Cover the pan, and pop it in the oven for 2o minutes. Take the cover off, and bake for 5 more.

Enjoy the comfort with extra pepper, or some chipotle Tabasco if you're into that.



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