Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes

This baked mac-and-cheese is creamy, delicious, and has a terrific surprise topping. First: the mac-and-cheese itself. It's perfectly yummy without being overly gooey or buttery (not that those things can't be good sometimes too!). The flavor is a little more interesting than my usual stove-top recipe because it uses a combination of cheddar and swiss cheeses. I found a great package of a pre-grated Swiss-Gruyere blend on sale at the store, which definitely sped things up, but you can use any combination of cheeses that appeals to you.

The topping is what really makes this recipe shine. The method for making flavored breadcrumbs in the food processor is extremely easy and gives excellent results. The crunch from the breadcrumbs and the acid from the sun-dried tomatoes provide the perfect contrast to the mac-and-cheese underneath.

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes (adapted from The Arugula Files, original recipe here)

1 1/2 lbs. rotini pasta (or another short pasta)
1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, patted dry
1 1/2 cupa panko
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyere and/or Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the pasta until just shy of al dente. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Meanwhile, put shallot into a food processor and pulse until diced. Without removing the shallot, add garlic and pulse until diced. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, pulse. Finally, add panko to the food processor and pulse until all ingredients are combined. Set the seasoned breadcrumbs aside until the pasta is finished.
3. When pasta is just shy of al dente, strain and then add it back to hot pan. Immediately add the milk and cheeses, and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spray a large casserole dish with oil. Pour in the pasta. Cover pasta with panko mixture.
5. Bake until top is golden brown (about 8-12 minutes).

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