Macaroni and Cheese with Dried Sungold Tomatoes and Proscuitto

 

Blog Macaroni and Cheese 017My dad told me that his mother would make a cake and a pie every week. Oh Grandma, the standards you’ve set are simply too high for me to reach! But perhaps there is something I can aspire to. When I was eight years old my parents took us to my grandmother’s house for some sort of holiday or special dinner. She made macaroni and cheese. Real macaroni and cheese. You know, like not from a blue box. With bread crumbs on top. And real, actual cheese that came from a cow. And what did I do? This Gen-Xer turned her nose up. “No thanks grandma! I’ll take the stuff in the blue box with powdered cheese. Thanks though!”

My poor mother coaxed me to eat it by telling me this was homemade macaroni and cheese, and I should thank my grandmother for taking the time to make it. Bleh.

Like most of us, with age I’ve come to understand there is absolutely no contest between the boxed stuff and the real stuff. And I’m perfectly happy with just simple mac and cheese with pasta and cheese and maybe some onions and mustard powder. But last night I had about ten teeny tiny Sungold tomatoes and some proscuitto left over from this pizza recipe and, heck, who doesn’t like cheese + ham + tomatoes? Nobody in this house. Especially this guy:

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So, to get as much flavor out of the tomatoes as possible, I cut them in half, placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, sprinkled them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and let them dry in the oven at 225 for about an hour. Of course, you can do this ahead of time, and put them in the refrigerator. If you have larger tomatoes, you’ll have to dry them longer; but these adorable little guys didn’t need much. For extra flavor, put some unpeeled garlic cloves on the cookie sheet too.

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For the macaroni and cheese, I always start with a roux, add milk, mustard powder, bay leaf, and onions, and finally the pasta and cheese. Grandma would be proud. For this recipe, I added the dried tomatoes, and their flavor had really concentrated after drying them. I also added two large slices of proscuitto, torn into small peices.

Making a roux

Making a roux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add milk, onions, and seasonings

Add milk, onions, and seasonings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the cheese, tomatoes and proscuitto

Add the cheese, tomatoes and proscuitto

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bake this for about 30 minutes (or until it’s bubbling and the cheese on the top begins to brown) at 350 degrees. Rather than put the whole concoction in another casserole dish, I just bake it right in my *oven safe* dutch oven. It’s easier, and someone in this house (husband) doesn’t have to wash more than one dish. We like to keep the customers happy.
 
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By the way, dried tomatoes are great on pasta, on pizza, or just by themselves. Drying tomatoes is great for reviving icky winter tomatoes that don’t have much flavor. I got the idea from smittenkitchen.com.

 

Macaroni and Cheese with Dried Sungold Tomatoes and Proscuitto

Fills a small dutch oven or a small casserole dish (if you’re using a 13 x 9 dish, double the recipe. We love mac and cheese in this house, but that’s simply way too much for us).

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups milk (I use skim, but feel free to go wild and use 2% or !! WHOLE!)

1 small onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 lb pasta (like elbow macaroni or penne)

12 oz of grated cheese that melts well (I always experiment with the cheeses, depending on what I have. Last night I had about a 3 oz mozzerella,  3 oz ricotta*, and about 6 oz of cheddar. My other favorites, if I remember to get them beforehand, are gruyere and fontina)

4 oz grated parmesean to sprinkle on top

 

  1. Heat water (plus dash of salt) in large pot and cook pasta–I usually take it off the heat about 2 minutes earlier than the directions call for since it will continue to cook in the oven.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Melt butter in dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the flour and mustard and whisk continuously for about 5 minutes
  4. Add milk, onion, paprika, and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Once milk has thickened a bit, add the all the cheese except for the parmesean
  6. Stir in the cooked pasta and mix it well until the cheese is all melted
  7. Mix in the proscuitto and tomatoes
  8. Sprinkle grated parmesean on top
  9. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the mac and cheese is bubbly and browning on top.

*ricotta does not necessarily melt well, but it is a soft cheese and is tasty even if, in the end, it isn’t thoroughly melted.

I promise not all my posts are going to be pasta and/or pizza with lots of cheese (though there is plenty of that!). I’ll get some lighter things on here soon. My rule of thumb is, when I make something heavy, I eat 1/2 a portion and save the rest for leftovers.

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Pizza with Sungold Tomato Sauce, Three Cheeses, and Proscuitto

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Pizza is a giver when it comes to providing a delicious and healthy meal that can be changed up each and every time you make it. A lot of times, when people make homemade pizza they want it to taste like the traditional brick-oven or carryout pizza, and when it doesn’t, they are disappointed. I’ve learned that you cannot treat homemade pizza like brick-oven pizza (unless you have a brick oven, which I do not). Homemade pizza is its own creature, and Glenn and I have discovered that we like it better than most pizzas we get out. I make it many different ways depending on what we have, but I always start with a good crust.

Definitely take the time to make a homemade crust–it is absolutely worth it. I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer, which makes it easier, but of course you can do this with a hand mixer or spoon. Because the dough has to rise for an hour, I make the dough as soon as I get home from work (it takes about 10 minutes at the most), then while it’s rising, I prepare the toppings or do something else that I have to do. All you have to do then is roll out the dough onto a pizza stone or a small cookie sheet greased with olive oil. I like to sprinkle some uncooked corn grits onto the pan too, to give the dough a bit of texture, but it’s not necessary. Also, I double the recipe and freeze half the dough, so the next time all I have to do is remember to get it out of the freezer before I leave for work. Yeah, I admit that’s hard sometimes.

While your dough is rising, make the Sungold Tomato Sauce. Whenever my husband would come home with these tiny little Sungold tomatoes, the only thing I could think to do with them was to put them on salads. Booooring. I decided to try a tomato sauce with them. Can you guess what the problem with that is? Well, lots of tiny tomatoes come with lots of tiny skins, so you end up having a sauce that’s almost all skins. And am I going to sit around and peel 4 cups of tiny little Sungolds? Dang it, I’m just not.

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So, I decided to use one of my most favorite kitchen appliances to help me out. But… you’ll have to wait a minute for that. Stick with me here, folks.

In a medium saucepan, I sauteed an onion, carrot, stalk of celery, and garlic in olive oil, then added about 4 cups of the Sungolds and some basil from my garden. Really, you can guesstimate here…it doesn’t have to be exact. 

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Saute everything on medium heat for about 30 minutes–until the tomatoes have all softened and lost their shape. Add salt and pepper. Then, pour the sauce into a blender or food processor. Since my food processor died a couple of weeks ago, I used a blender and it worked great. Oh yeah, I love blenders. They are so powerful for such little appliances. And in this case, it totally took care of all those skins, just processing them into the yummy, tangy pulp that they turned into.

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Spread the sauce over the dough. I used about a 1/2 cup of sauce and froze the rest for later. On top of that, add about 8 oz of fresh mozzerella, about a 1/2 cup of homemade ricotta, and shavings of good parmesean–maybe about 10 shavings or so. Top with about 1/2 cup of Sungolds, sliced in half. Place about 2 slices of good proscuitto, torn apart, evenly on top. Add more if you like pork!

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the crust starts to brown around the edges and all the mozzerella has melted.

Pizza is great to experiment with, and it will hold almost any kind of topping you can think of. Pair sweet or tangy things (tomatoes) with salty ones (proscuitto). If you don’t have time to make sauce, just slice the tomatoes in half and place them on the dough with a little olive oil and cheese. You can’t go wrong…

 

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Basic Pizza Dough

Makes crust for one small pizza (this feeds two people)

1 2/3 cups flour (plus extra if you knead it by hand)

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup warm water

Mix the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients and mix well. Knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook on your stand mixer. Rub some olive oil over the dough, and place it in a bowl covered with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

 

Sungold Tomato Sauce (you can use pretty much any tomatoes for this)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

about 4 cups Sungold tomatoes (plus or minus)

a handful of basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute for a minute or two (don’t let the garlic brown). Add the tomatoes and basil.

Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have lost their shape. Add salt and pepper.

Blend or process mixture for about a minute in a blender or food processor.