I love to think outside of the box when it comes to traditional recipes. The usual tried-and-true recipes are great, but there is always a way to make them better. I call it a bonus when you can use up items that you have in the fridge and turn them into a new family favorite. This Italian macaroni and cheese recipe was created from my need to use up the last bit of Italian bread crumbs and the pack of grape tomatoes that I purchased almost a week prior. I was determined to use them in a cool way, and have my kids enjoy the meal.
The best part about macaroni and cheese is that it’s easy to make, it can be made ahead of time and reheated, and you can add all kinds of crazy toppings to it. This particular recipe can be served as a stove-top meal, or you can place it under the broiler for a few minutes to create a crunchy, crispy topping. As you can see in the pictures in this post, I chose to broil that baby up. Once the macaroni and cheese was crispy, I topped it with sliced tomatoes, basil, and the Italian breadcrumbs, which had been mixed with a drizzle of olive oil. Easy meal, delicious result. I hope you like it!
Italian Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound of elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature or lukewarm
2 cups shredded provolone cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup pasta water
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook elbow macaroni until it’s al dente.
Place another large pot on medium-low heat, and pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle in flour, and whisk the oil and flour together for at least 2 to 3 minutes. You want to make sure there are no lumps in the roux.
Slowly pour in the room temperature milk, while whisking continuously. Again, you want to make sure there are no lumps.
Let the mixture simmer, stirring continuously, until it becomes thick. This may take 5 to 7 minutes. It should look like the base of a creamy soup, but a bit thicker.
Put in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until incorporated.
Turn off heat. Place the provolone and mozzarella cheese in the pot and stir.
Take 1/4 pasta water and stir into cheese mixture. Drain pasta, place it into the pot with the cheese mixture, and top with the grated parmesan. Stir.
Place Italian bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small bowl. Stir together and put aside.
To serve as stove-top mac and cheese:
Place macaroni and cheese in individual bowls. Top each with sliced tomatoes, Italian bread crumb mixture, then julienned basil. Serve immediately.
To serve as “baked” mac and cheese:
Place Italian macaroni and cheese in a large oven-proof dish, or 6 small oven-proof dishes, and place under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the macaroni and cheese is crispy, top with sliced tomatoes, Italian bread crumb mixture, and julienned basil. Serve immediately.