i have a real fondness for a simple pasta pomodoro. but the pasta in question has to be a spaghetti or bucatini – a long noodle, in other words. dunno why, but the same simple tomato sauce with a short-shape, tubular pasta doesn’t taste nearly as good to me.
so. recently i had a box of mini penne-shaped pasta in my pantry, and a little bit of homemade tomato sauce (so little i’m not sure why it got saved in the first place) and a lot of extra cheese in my fridge. i stared at it for a while, and then, just like that old commercial where chocolate and peanut butter kind of collide together, i knew what i had to do.
MACARONI & CHEESE WITH LEFTOVER TOMATO SAUCE
1 cup mini-penne or mini-elbow shaped pasta, cooked in salted water, drained, and set aside
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2T butter + some for greasing the pan
1 cup of grated cheese. i like a mix of mostly fontina, with a little parmesan and a little gruyère
1 cup milk (use whole milk!)
basil chiffonade for garnish.
as pasta is cooking, butter up the inside of two small oven-proof bowls (i like to use these from Emile Henry). toast breadcrumbs in one tablespoon of butter for 2 minutes in a small pan. they’ll smell just right when done; turn off heat and set pan aside.
in a pot, melt the other tablespoon of butter and whisk in the flour, stirring continuously for 2-3 minutes. slowly whisk in the milk. once it’s incorporated and beginning to thicken a little, remove from heat and add about 3/4 c of the grated cheese, plus paprika (optional) and some salt & pepper to taste. when cheese has melted and sauce is smooth, add cooked pasta and stir to coat.
to assemble: place a spoonful or two of your leftover tomato sauce at the bottom of each bowl. fill bowl halfway with macaroni, maybe another spoonful of tomato sauce, and finish with the rest of the macaroni. top each bowl with remaining grated cheese and toasted bread crumbs. bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, and sprinkle basil chiffonade on top when it comes out. done!
(makes 2 BIG servings or 3-4 daintier servings. recipe loosely adapted (and halved) from The Joy Of Cooking cookbook)
photos by laura kinsey