Ina Garten’s Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Once again, Ina did not disappoint. 🙂 This classic baked macaroni and cheese recipe incorporated two of my ultimate favorite cheeses and was upgraded with a colorful tomato topping. It was really delicious- a new favorite!

This dish was part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. I was able to assemble the dish the day prior to baking it which was very helpful. I actually grated the cheeses two days in advance- which would be completely unnecessary if making this dish on its own, of course.

The recipe was adapted from FoodNetwork.com, contributed by Ina Garten. I modified the method and used Campari tomatoes and panko in the topping.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish or 10 to 12 as a side dish

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound (16 oz) elbow macaroni or cavatappi (I used 17.6 oz Gigli pasta)
  • 4 cups (1 quart) milk (I used whole milk)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 4 cups)(I used Swiss Raw Milk Le Gruyère aged over 120 days from Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)(I used Cabot 3-year extra-sharp white cheddar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 Campari tomatoes or 4 small tomatoes (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (I set my oven to convection.)
  2. Grate the cheeses with a food processor, if desired.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. Reserve the pot for the sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it.
  5. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in the large pot (the pasta cooking pot) and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
  6. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
  7. Off the heat, add the shredded Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and stir well.
  9. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. (I chose a shallow baking dish to increase the surface area for tomatoes and crispy panko topping.)*If making in advance, cover and refrigerate after this step.
  10. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. (I sliced the tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick.)
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the panko, and sprinkle on the top.
  12. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top. 

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the tomatoes and panko on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.

Baked Feta & Tomato Pasta with Basil

I first heard about this spectacularly easy viral pasta dish from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I think I was the last to know… My daughter has seen countless people make it on TikTok, of course. 😉 She was absolutely thrilled to make it with me!

The original recipe is called “Uunifetapasta,” created by the Finnish blogger Jenni Häyrinen. The foundation of the dish is a block of feta placed in the center of a baking dish surrounded by seasoned tomatoes. After being baked, the cheese and burst tomatoes are combined to create a creamy and delicious sauce to serve over pasta. Deb Perelman incorporated chickpeas in her version- nice.

This version from the Washington Post, contributed by Aaron Hutcherson, recommended using Greek sheep’s milk feta to maximize the creaminess. I used an enameled cast iron baking pan, modified the proportions and incorporated za’atar to the seasoning on the tomatoes prior to baking. It was super creamy and tasty- and as simple and easy to prepare as expected.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 3 pints (750 to 800 g) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 5 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 8 T (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 block (10.5 oz) Greek feta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • za’atar, to taste, optional
  • 17 to 18 oz medium-length dried pasta, such as campanile, rigatoni, or rotini (I used Gigli)
  • fresh basil leaves, for serving
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  3. Sprinkle the tomatoes with some salt and toss to coat. Sprinkle with za’atar, if using.
  4. Place the feta cheese in the center of the tomatoes and garlic, top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle the entire dish with red pepper flakes and a little black pepper.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
  7. Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir the feta and tomatoes with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
  8. Mix the sauce with pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as needed if it looks a little dry. (I incorporated quite a bit of pasta water.)
  9. To serve, top with plenty of basil leaves.

Sheet-Pan Spicy Roasted Broccoli Pasta

I have a few broccoli pasta recipes to share. I’m always buying the 3 pound bag of broccoli florets at Costco when I’m on a break from my CSA vegetables. 😉

This first dish is one of the Most Popular Recipes of 2017 from New York Times Cooking. I’m surprised that I didn’t see it when it was first published- especially because it’s a sheet pan dish! Although it has the ingredients typical of a pasta casserole, more of the broccoli and toppings get crispy by the increased surface area exposed to direct heat by cooking it on a sheet pan.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the amount of broccoli and used Gigli pasta. We ate it with a huge green salad. Quick, easy, and tasty. It would be even more incredible if it was topped with fresh ricotta. Next time!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 ½ pounds broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 12 ounces chiocciole, penne, or other tube-shaped pasta (I used Gigli pasta)
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
  • finely grated zest from 1 large lemon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces best quality, whole milk ricotta
  • fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together broccoli, 3 T olive oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes.
  3. Roast until tender and browned at the edges, 18 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven and set oven to broil.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together Parmesan, panko, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the black pepper.
  6. Toss cooked pasta with broccoli on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dollop with ricotta.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmesan mix, drizzle generously with oil, and broil until topping is crisped and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with lemon juice to taste, and serve.

One Year Ago: Fresh Ricotta

Two Years Ago: Spaghetti Pizza

Three Years Ago: Penne with Radicchio

Four Years Ago: Pasta Alla Norma with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Five Years Ago: Movie Night Pizza

Escarole, Feta & Shrimp Pasta

When I have escarole in my CSA box, I try to make something new. It seems that the most classic use for escarole is in an Italian white bean soup, but I try to branch out. 😉

This is a quick, cheesy, creamy, TERRIFIC escarole pasta dish. We loved it. The recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. I used one half of a head of escarole subsidized with CSA turnip and beet greens. I also modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound to 1 pound short pasta, such as campanelle, farfalle, cappellacci, or gigli
  • 1 large head escarole, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips (I used 1/2 head escarole as well as turnip and beet greens)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3/4 to 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, patted dry
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 8 ounces feta, crumbled (about 2 cups)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions.
  2. Add escarole and cook 1 minute. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
  3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.)
  4. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  5. Add shrimp, season with salt, and cook until opaque throughout, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add pasta mixture and scant 1/2 cup pasta water and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in yogurt, feta, and dill. If necessary, add more pasta water to create a light sauce that coats pasta. (I reserve the additional pasta water to use when reheating leftovers.)
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

One Year Ago:

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