Friday, July 22, 2011

Caprese Mac-n-Cheese

I realized that I haven't posted in some time. Part of the reason for that is because we have been busy enjoying summer in Chicago. The other reason is because it has been SOOOOO hot here that I haven't been cooking much (or doing much of anything around our place since it has been as hot as a sauna for days on end!).

It's a little pathetic to think of the meals we 'enjoyed' this week but in hope of less stifling heat and more home-cooked and tasty meals, I would like to share an idea for a good summer pasta recipe that I made before the heat set in. This one is inspired by my intense love for Caprese salads which traditionally include tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I start with the same cheese sauce base that I use for mac-n-cheese but then change it up with a few fresh ingredients.

The Recipe:

  • 3 Tbl. butter
  • 3 Tbl. flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used rotini but lots of other types would work well)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped (about 1/4 cup when chopped)
  • 2 cups (white) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into smaller pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

The Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta, drain and set aside.
  3. While pasta is cooking, you can start the sauce. Melt the butter on low heat in a large skillet or saucepan. Once butter is melted, whisk in flour. Keep mixture moving on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. (This mixture will help sauce thicken.)
  4. Turn heat to low and slowly whisk in milk. Turn heat up a little to gently bring to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be pretty thick at this point.
  5. Turn heat off. Add cheddar cheese and then salt and pepper to taste. Stir sauce until cheese melts.
  6. Add pasta to sauce, then basil and tomatoes. Check if more salt and pepper is needed.
  7. Pour entire mixture into a casserole. Top evenly with fresh mozzarella and bake until the cheese melts (about 10-15 minutes).
  8. Serve immediately while the mozzarella is still hot and oozy!

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