Mac and cheese is a great comfort food but if you add bacon, chilli and tomato to it you've got a wonderful flavoured macaroni cheese! Bacon or pancetta adds so much flavour, chilli adds spice and tomatoes add a pop of juicyness and flavour to a classic mac and cheese. If you love mac and cheese then this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!
This mac and cheese is all sorts of delicious especially with lovely pops of tomatoes in this. I saw this on the lovely Pip Lincolne on Instagram make a tomato mac and cheese and that got me thinking about what a great idea it is to add tomatoes to mac and cheese. Then I decided to add chilli and pancetta to it. I used lots of tomatoes just to keep that tangy balance and it's really so simple to make and feed many.
While I love rich and creamy food I find I can't eat a lot of mac and cheese because it tends to be the same bite every time. I don't know if this is a thing but it's the same sensation I get with eating ice cream and I'm usually done in a few bites. With other dishes each forkful can be different depending on what you put on it. Is it a palate boredom (I'm sure there must be some sort of word for this in German)? That's sort of how I feel about it especially as you tend to eat mac and cheese as is but adding the rest keeps me very interested.
Tips for making Tomato Mac and Cheese:
2 - Because we aren't in tomato season I used tinned cherry tomatoes in this. You can use any sort of tinned tomatoes but I like the look of the little cherry tomatoes peeking out and I think they give each bite a nice pop. I use 800g or 28ozs total or 2x400g/14oz tins. If you are in tomato season feel free to use fresh ones.
3 - I absolutely love pancetta in this. I usually get a wedge of pancetta from the deli (even the supermarket deli sells it) and dice it up. You can also use bacon for this.
4 - I use a few different types of cheese in this - cream cheese is to thicken up the milk while I used a mixture of cheddar, tasty and gruyere cheese. Basically I used up the cheese that I had that needed to be used up. Just make sure that it has a strong flavour so include tasty or cheddar in the mix.
5 - If you want to make this a bit creamier you can use evaporated milk (not condensed) instead of milk. You can also use cream but that makes it very rich and more of a restaurant style mac and cheese.
6 - I like things spicy so I used a tablespoon of these hot cream peppers by Muraca. These Calabrian chillies are the absolute bomb and I love them so much that I bought them in a huge jar from Costco but you can find them at a few different places. They're great for pizzas instead of chilli oil and they add a hot spiciness to any dish. So many of you bought them the last time I wrote about them and are similarly obsessed! If you don't have these you can also use fresh red chillies, around 2-3 depending on how hot you like things.
I found it a bit hard to get this to brown on top due to the fact that my oven's grill doesn't work so I had to cook mine a bit longer and at a higher heat. The kitchen renovation is going well although there are nights where I wake up wondering about my kitchen design thinking "Will I have enough pantry space?" and then slightly panicking.
I won't be sad to say goodbye to this oven and this little dark kitchen. I won't miss lighting the gas oven and smelling the gas. I won't miss the weird sinks and the taps that drip unless you really close them tightly and I won't miss the lack of bench space. I also won't miss having to open a huge floor to ceiling cupboard door and a drawer every time I just want a fork.
On the bright side I may end up with two fridges as we have space to keep the old fridge. My only request with a new fridge was that it be a French door fridge that made cubed and crushed ice for my beloved seafood platters. Oh and an oven that works and doesn't need a garbage bin shoved in front of it to close it!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever get bored eating some foods if the bite is the same? What is the best feature about your kitchen?
Bacon, Chilli & Tomato Macaroni Cheese
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 6 people
- 500g/1.1lbs uncooked curly macaroni
- 2x400g/14oz tinned cherry tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 300g/10.6ozs. bacon or pancetta, diced (pancetta is amazing in this)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 2 small red chillies, sliced or 1 tablespoon of hot cream peppers*
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 125g/4ozs cream cheese or sour cream
- 3 cups/750ml/1.6pints milk or evaporated milk for a creamier texture
- 450g/1lb grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar, tasty and gruyere)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 190C/374F and have a large baking dish around 35x22x8cm or 14x8.5x3inches ready. Boil the macaroni in a large pot of salted water for 5 minutes (you don't want this completely cooked as it will cook further in the oven). Place the macaroni in a large baking dish along with the tomatoes and stir to evenly distribute.
Step 2 - Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions and bacon/pancetta until fragrant and onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chillies and cook for a minute. Then add the flour to this mixture and stir to coat. Add the cream cheese and allow to melt. Then add the milk, grated cheese and heat until the cheese has melted and you get a creamy mixture-you can use a whisk to smooth it out. Pour over the top of the pasta and tomatoes and stir to coat. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes. If the top hasn't browned, place it under the grill for a few minutes to turn golden.