November 03, 2010

Mac + Cheese with Tomato + Bacon

12 oz evaporated milk
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 cup shredded extra sharp, aged cheddar
1/3 cup panko
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 slices thick cut bacon, crumbled
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz canned, diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb small or medium sized pasta, cooked

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and heat through. In a small, dry skillet, quickly toast the panko.

In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth. Pour over the drained pasta. Add the tomato mixture and bacon; stir to evenly distribute. Pour into lightly oiled baking dish. Top with a sprinkle of panko. Bake covered about 15 minutes, then uncover and cook until hot and bubbly, about 10-15 additional minutes.

Yield: about 4-6 meal sized servings, 8-10 side dish sized servings

My thoughts:
Years ago an older lady lived across the street from my mother. She was really nice (in fact she gave me my first slow cooker!) and we would visit her and my mom would take her shopping and out to lunch. To repay us (not that she had to) she would occasionally make this macaroni and cheese that was unlike any mac and cheese that I had ever had. It had bacon and a tomato-y sauce. I never did get the recipe but I've thought of it fondly over the years and thought I'd try to recreate it with a few of my own touches. It actually ended up being pretty much nothing like her mac and cheese beyond the bacon and tomato additions but I think she'd like it just as much. It is creamy and flavorful and surprisingly, not as heavy as you would think. The perfect comfort food to help ease into the colder months.