I think this is the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever! This is a dish I make for the whole family, one that we all love to eat. I’ve used sweet tomatoes in my recipe as they really complement the cheese, and instead of béchamel sauce I’ve used single cream (half and half), as it’s a lot lighter. I’ve also topped the dish off with cheesy breadcrumbs, which give it a wonderful crunch. I think you’ll laugh when you see how easy it is to make. I put it together extremely quickly by using my Magimix food processor. Don’t worry if you haven’t got one – you can chop it all up by hand instead and then mix it in a bowl.
- 340g/12oz macaroni
- 200g/7oz bread, preferably stale, for making breadcrumbs
- 800g/1 ¾ lb super ripe tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 2 large handfuls of fresh basil
- 55g/2oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 2 anchovies
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 565ml/1 pint single cream (half and half)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ a nutmeg, grated
- 400g/14oz cow’s milk mozzarella, broken up
- A handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Get a pan of salted boiling water going and cook your macaroni according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, break your bread up, place it in the food processor and whizz up to form breadcrumbs. Set aside. Wash your tomatoes and place them in the food processor with the garlic, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Whizz up for 30 seconds. Then add 2 handfuls of the Parmesan, the cream (half and half), vinegar and grated nutmeg. Whizz until smooth and season carefully to taste so it’s really yummy!
By this time your macaroni will probably be cooked, so drain it in a colander, saving some of the cooking water. Place the pasta back into the pan and pour over every last bit of the cheesy sauce. You want it to be quite loose because you’ll be surprised how quickly the sauce will disappear inside the macaroni and will look dry. So add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water. Now you need to get yourself a baking dish about 8–10 cm/3 or 4-inches deep – this could be an earthenware dish or even a shallow ovenproof pan. Pour the pasta straight into your baking dish and break the mozzarella into little pieces over the top. Mix the last handful of Parmesan with the thyme leaves and breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over the top of the dish. Drizzle generously with good extra virgin olive oil – this will give you a lovely crunchy topping.
Place in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes or until piping hot and golden on top. Serve straight away, sprinkled with a little extra Parmesan. Best eaten with a nice salad – and you’ll love it.
Nutritional information includes 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving