Fabulous Italian Mac and Cheese, made with Italian cheese blend, diced tomatoes and fresh basil, and topped with buttery toasted panko crumbs and parm.
Keyword Mac & Cheese
Prep Time 20minutes
Cook Time 25minutes
Total Time 45minutes
Author Elizabeth at thewildolive.org
½cuppanko bread crumbs
12ozdry pastasuch as campanelle, gemelli or cavatappi
8oz.shredded Italian Cheese blend
¾tsp.sodium citrate*optional, see note below
salt & pepper to taste
1cupdiced fresh or canned San Marzano tomatoes
6-7large fresh basil leavestorn in pieces
4sprigs fresh oreganooptional
¼cupfinely shredded Parm or Pecorino Romano
In a non stick skillet melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter. Add panko crumbs, and stir over medium heat until toasted. Do not walk away - they go from delicious to ruined in a flash! Sprinkle kosher salt over toasted crumbs and combine. Remove from heat and let crumbs cool completely.
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water and 1 Tbsp kosher salt to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Be sure to cook the pasta past al dente. If you don't cook the pasta enough, it will absorb too much of your sauce and make your mac & cheese dry.
In a large saucepan (at least 3 qts.) melt the remaining 3 Tbsp. of butter. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, 2 minutes on medium heat. Whisk in milk, and keep whisking till all lumps are gone. Bring sauce to gentle boil, reduce heat and gently boil sauce, whisking occasionally, for several minutes to cook the flour. Turn off the heat and add the 8 oz of Italian cheese blend and the sodium citrate, if using. Gently stir till cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat your oven to 350. Add the drained, cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit more milk. Grease a casserole dish and pour half of the pasta and sauce into the pan. Evenly distribute the tomatoes and herbs over the top.
Gently add the rest of the pasta and sauce over the top. Sprinkle the parm/pecorino romano over the top, and then sprinkle on the cooled toasted panko. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes, then uncovered for 5 more minutes or so, until the dish is bubbling around the edges and heated through.
Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth at www.thewildolive.org