Smoky Baked Mac and Cheese

Last weekend I had the craving for something warm and comforting but all of my normal, go-to recipes just seemed uninspiring.  I wanted to try something new.  Whenever I am on the search for a new recipe, I look at my starred posts in my reader and slowly make my way through a stack of magazines and recipe books.  However, it never fails that I end up finding the perfect thing to try over at the Kitchen Sink.  


This recipe did not disappoint.  I didn’t grow up eating the baked mac and cheese variety.  The simple homemade kind with “nice and cheesy” and elbow macaroni was always sufficient.  However, I knew that this smoked up classic would be just the thing that I needed to knock me out of my rut.

The recipe comes together simply.  Make a quick roux with a little butter and flour, stream in the milk, mix in the smoked paprika and a few other chilis and then slowly melt in the 3 different kinds of grated cheese.  

This cheese sauce is then tossed with a drained can of tomatos and the just-this-side of al dente pasta.  Pour everything into a baking dish and topped it with some panko crumbs.  After 30 mins, a warm goey dish comes out, ready to be paired with a nice green salad or some steamed broccoli.  

I have already made this dish again, since I still had the blocks of cheese waiting in the oven.  I made a small batch and tossed it in the freezer, to bake off the next time I feel like I am in a rut.

Smoky Baked Mac and Cheese
Inspired by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink

1 pound dried ziti or other tubular pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed aleppo peppers
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar
1/2 cup shredded smoked mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded gruyere
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted chopped tomatoes, drained (I used plain tomatoes the 2nd time and just upped the spices above with great success)
1/3 cup panko (I left it off the 2nd time, and I might have like it better)
2 tablespoons parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the pasta in boiling water until the pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter is melted, stir in the flour with a whisk and cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Reduce the heat and add the garlic, aleppo peppers and paprika; simmer until the liquid thickens. Remove from heat and, using a slotted spoon, fish out the garlic clove Next, add the cheese, stirring with the whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the cooked pasta and drained tomatoes into the saucepan and toss to combine. (Note: if your saucepan isn’t big enough, use a large bowl). Transfer the pasta into the a baking dish.

In the microwave, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Toss the panko crumbs in the melted butter and sprinkle them on top of the pasta. Sprinkle the parmesan on top of the panko.

Or omit the panko and sprinkle the top with extra shredded cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

3 responses to “Smoky Baked Mac and Cheese

  1. I’m sending you the laundry bill for the shirt that I just drooled all over while reading that post. 🙂

  2. Your mac and cheese looks delicious!

  3. Pingback: Goin’ on a Blog Hunt « The Beholder

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