Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baked Macaroni

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Baked Macaroni, is the quintessential favorite of almost every kid in America, my nephew and nieces included. They love the boxed variety from Kraft and even though I always try to prepare them food made from scratch, they never seem to appreciate the reasons why I do it. Anyway, this dish is not for my nephew and nieces who are miles away across the globe in Illinois. This adult version of baked macaroni is for our batch Christmas party this year. It was assigned to a friend but she thought I will do a much better job at it so she relegated the cooking to me.

Truth be told, it has been some time since I made this dish and well, baked macaroni is cooked differently here in the Philippines. The sauce that they use is almost always tomato based and is flavored with either ground beef, hotdogs or sausages. Thus, I am torn between the traditional American baked macaroni dish I have come to love and the one that is commonly served here during special occasions. I ended up combining both recipes sans the meat to satisfy both my desire to stay true to the dish and to have it look a bit familiar to my Filipino friends.

Baked Macaroni

Marinara Sauce:

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 30-oz canned whole tomatoes
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
salt and pepper

Cheese Sauce:
1/2 cup salted butter
8 tbsp flour
6 cups milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
salt and pepper

1 1/2 lb macaroni, cooked as per packet instructions
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Herbes de Provence

1. To prepare the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil in a pot over medium 
    heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly browned. Add the chili flakes 
    and saute for a minute. 

2. Crush the whole tomatoes with your hands and pour into the pot. Rinse the
    can with about a cup of water and add to the sauce. Season with salt and 
    pepper and the dried oregano. 

3. Bring the pot to a boil and lower the heat to low and simmer covered for 
    about 30 minutes.  Check for flavor and set aside. 

4. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and 
    mix until a smooth paste is obtained. 

5. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking the roux (butter and flour mixture). 
    Continue to whisk until all the milk has been incorporated. This will prevent
    lumps from forming. 

6. Season with the nutmeg and continue to cook the sauce for about 5-10 
    minutes. Add more milk if it gets too thick. 

7. Add the cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese and stir until fully incorporated
    into the sauce. Check for flavor and correct with salt and pepper. 

To assemble, mix the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce and combine until the pasta is evenly coated. Spoon about 2 cups of the marinara sauce into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the macaroni. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs and dust with a little bit of the Herbes the Provence. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

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