Tomato Mac 'n' Cheese

Few things in the kitchen are as delicious to eat or as simple to make as a bubbling pan of mac 'n' cheese. That's why I love trying different variations of the classic dish. In this version, tomatoes and oregano add lots of familiar flavour. Whatever version you make, though, nothing beats the satisfaction of doing it yourself!



For the mac 'n' cheese

2 tablespoons (30 mL) of vegetable oil

2 onions, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

A 28-ounce (796 mL) can of crushed tomatoes

A 5.5-ounce (156 mL) can of tomato paste

1 cup (250 mL) of whipping cream

2 tablespoons (30 mL) of dried oregano

1 teaspoon (5 mL) of Sriracha or your favourite hot sauce

6 ounces (170 g) of Grana Padano or Parmesan, grated

1 1/2 pounds (675 g) of whole wheat penne or your favourite pasta

1 pint (500 mL) of cherry tomatoes, halved


For the topping

6 ounces (170 g) or so of shredded mozzarella

(about 2 cups/500 mL)

1 cup (250 mL) of panko or your favourite bread crumbs


Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Lightly oil a 13- x 9-inch (3 L) casserole or baking dish with cooking spray.

First, make the sauce. Splash the oil into a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cream, oregano and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat. Whisk in the Grana Padano a handful at a time.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a furious boil. Toss in the penne, stir one or twice, and cook until the pasta is al dente, tender but slightly chewy, 10 minutes or so. Scoop out about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot along with the reserved cooking water, the sauce and the cherry tomatoes. Stir together well. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, spreading the works into a thick, even layer.

Stir together the mozzarella and panko and sprinkle evenly over the pasta. Bake until bubbling hot, golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

Excerpted from Real Food, Real Good by Michael Smith. Copyright © Michael Smith, 2016. Food photography by Ryan Szulc. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada Books Inc., a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

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