It finally felt like Fall this week. One morning I was sitting on the porch in a skirt and tank top, enjoying a cup of coffee and the warmth of the sun and that same afternoon I froze walking home. Time to pull out the sweaters and pants.
Autumn is such a homey season. The spices, the drinks, the desserts all taste like home. While summer tastes like sunshine and gardens, fall is definitely homey. Macaroni and Cheese is perhaps the homiest dish of all. So today I present Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Macaroni and Cheese. A blend of summer’s offerings with fall’s comfort.
It is super cheesy. I mean really cheesy. Kind of like me. Maybe you are a little cheesy too? The creaminess of the sauce offsets the tangy tomatoes, while the caramelized onion and garlic warm the soul.
Don’t be scared away by the instructions. This is simple to make and so worth it. I detailed the instructions to clear away any confusion, but I promise, this is easy. And very, very yummy.
Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Macaroni and Cheese
16 oz (one bag) Conchiglie pasta, or whichever shape you want
1 yellow onion diced
1 head of garlic diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, diced (about 7 sprigs)
1/4 cup fresh basil finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup shredded Gruyere
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon Cayenne (optional, but I like the little kick it gives)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 cup diced parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Saute the diced onion in butter and olive oil over low heat until translucent. (About 15 minutes.) Add the diced garlic to the pan and continue cooking until they are both caramelized. (About 1o more minutes.) While sautéing, chop the basil, thyme and sun-dried tomatoes. When the onion and garlic are caramelized combine them with diced the basil, thyme and sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside.
Make the breadcrumbs as the onions are cooking. For the breadcrumbs I used a leftover baguette, but sliced bread fine. Slice the baguette into rounds and put them in the oven for 5 minutes to toast them. Then chopped the bread into little pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.
Boil water for the pasta. Cook pasta for 3 minutes less than the directions say. The pasta should be cooked only on the outside. The inside should be hard. It will have a white strip in the middle.
Warm 2 cups of milk in another pan, making sure not to boil it.
Make the béchamel sauce: Wipe the onion pan clean and melt 4 tablespoons of butter. When the butter stops bubbling add the flour and quickly stir together. Cook until the mixture is golden. Slowly add the warmed milk to the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. Start with 1/2 cup of milk, once that is fully incorporated add more. Once all the milk is added cook for 1 or 2 minutes more until the sauce has thickened. Then add the nutmeg, pepper, salt, cayenne, and mustard. Mix. Add all 3 cups of cheese. It will be very cheesy.
Add the onion, garlic, sun-dried tomato, and basil mix to the cheese sauce and combine. Then add the pasta to the sauce. Place macaroni and cheese into individual ramekins to bake. (Sometimes I bake the whole thing in the same cast iron pan I made it in.) Top with breadcrumbs.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375 F. Try not to eat it all at once. This is why I bake it in individual servings, otherwise it all will disappear!