Patent & the Pantry was one of the first blogs I started reading regularly upon discovering the world of food blogging. In fact, when I began this blog, I started compiling a list of recipes that I love and knew that I had to share with you. This was one of them. Unfortunately, it has taken several months to bring this to you.
I made this on New Year's Eve for Sean, myself, and a couple of friends.
To those of you who recently vowed to lose weight/get back in shape/eat better: I'm sorry. To everyone else: you're welcome.
For the tomato sauce base
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
For the macaroni and cheese
1 box short cut pasta
1/4 cup butter (half stick)
1/4 cup flour
5 cups grated cheese (use whatever you'd like!)
3 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, saute until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, and let it simmer for a bit. Then add in the can of diced tomatoes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and sugar. Allow to simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
While things are thickening up and the oven is preheating, cook the pasta according to package directions. As the pasta is cooking, you can start on the cheese sauce.
Melt the butter in a pot over medium-low heat. When the melted butter is frothy and bubbling, add the flour and whisk until it is well-blended. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes, so that the raw flour taste can cook out. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
After the milk-flour mixture has thickened slightly, add in 4 cups of shredded cheese. Stir it all together until it melts, and add salt and pepper to taste. If it looks like it's too thick, you can always add a bit more milk.
Drain the pasta once it's done, and return it to the pot. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and stir to coat.
Put the tomato sauce in the base of a casserole dish. Top with the macaroni and cheese. Sprinkle everything with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake covered for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes.
I usually bake up a smaller casserole for Sean and myself right away, and put the rest in a larger casserole dish to freeze and have at a later time. To freeze any or all of this, follow all of the above directions, but stop before baking it. Wrap it up and pop it in the freezer. Just make sure to let it thaw before baking. You will likely have to tack on some extra baking time, even after it has thawed.
Seriously, one of the best things ever. Try it. Immediately. I wouldn't lie to you, especially about something that is as heavily cheese-laden as this recipe.
The macaroni and cheese component is creamy and fantastic, and the sauce is tangy and savory, given an extra dimension with the addition of the balsamic vinegar. And the layer where they two components meet? Amazing.