The best grilled cheese you’ve ever had runs head-long into your tomato soup and BOOM. You get baked mac and cheese with tomatoes. One of the best comfort foods (and the #1 recipe on The Country Contessa) gets yet another transformation into this southern classic.
A couple of years ago, a reader asked me if I had a recipe for macaroni and cheese with tomatoes. I thought she meant macaroni and tomatoes (minus the cheese) which I know well. But she was insistent that no–there was an actual real version of macaroni and cheese that had tomatoes in it and that it was pretty doggone amazing.
I had my doubts.
Until I made it for myself. And now I realize I might be a borderline hard-headed idiot for not making it sooner.
The secret is using stewed tomatoes. Write that down. STEWED. Not diced, not chili-ready, not with basil and oregano. Stewed tomatoes are so good on their own–they’ve been cooked down with celery,onion and seasonings and have a slow-cooked flavor straight out of the can. (You can make homemade stewed tomatoes, but who has time for that? Me. Either.)
They might be my new food love.
Make your baked mac and cheese with tomatoes in a large skillet and add your tomatoes as the sauce thickens (before you add the cheese) and bake it all up together. For something fresh, you could add some cooked chicken to the party for a one-dish dinner or some of your favorite vegetables like peas or broccoli.
And just try not to fall in love with those tomatoes. And the macaroni. And the cheese. And the crunchy bread crumbs…it’s just one more way to love something that’s already amazing.
Baked mac and cheese with tomatoes
It's like a grilled cheese meets tomato soup in one big cozy pan of dinner wonderful.
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 14- ounce can stewed tomatoes with the juice chopped
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup plain Panko bread crumbs optional
Preheat the oven to 350.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain and set aside.
In a large oven-safe skillet (if you don't have a skillet that goes in the oven you can transfer your mac and cheese to a baking dish in a bit), melt the butter and add the flour.
Stir until the flour cooks and the raw flour flavor is gone--about a minute or so.
Add the milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens--another 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the cheese and stir until it melts.
Add the pasta and stir.
If transferring to a baking dish, spray the dish with non-stick spray. If not, transfer your skillet to the oven and top with the bread crumbs if you are using them.
Bake until golden and bubbly--about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.