Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cheesy Comfort

After returning home from a lovely weekend with Cat and a nice long sleep I woke up to a rainy Labour Day Monday.  It’s always a bit of a downer when an extra day off work results in bad weather.

The chill in the air led me to curl up with a book and to think about comfort food.  Since I had just been emailing my friend John about recreating the Mac & Cheese we had at Joe Fortes in Vancouver I couldn’t get it off my mind.

I dug out my Pioneer Woman cookbook and turned to her recipe for inspiration.  Typical of me, I didn’t have most of the exact ingredients on hand but I’m quite pleased with the meal I came up with!

Baked Two Cheese Penne with Cherry Tomatoes



  • 2 cups penne (or small pasta of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (I used unsweetened original Almond Breeze because it’s creamier than the skim I had on hand)
  • 1 small egg (or 1/2 large egg…whisk it and use 1/2)
  • 2 heaping cups (250 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 12 cherry tomatoes  (slice 3, chop the rest)



  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  (A trick from Pioneer Woman is to NOT cook it all the way…it should be slightly too firm to eat right out of the pot).  Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or spray a small baking dish.
  3. In a large saucepan or pot melt the butter over medium-low heat, sprinkle with flour, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, whisking constantly so it won’t stick or burn.
  4. Add the milk and mustard, whisk until smooth, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Whisk constantly until quite thick.  Reduce heat to low.
  5. Beat the egg in a small bowl.  To temper the egg, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sauce into the egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg. 
  6. When smooth pour the egg mixture into the sauce, whisking until well mixed in.
  7. Toss all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar and 1 tbsp of the parmesan together.  Add all but the extras to the pot, add paprika and season with salt and pepper.  Stir until melted.  Taste and re-season if needed.
  8. Add in the cooked pasta and combine.  Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and combine.
  9. Pour pasta into greased baking dish and top with remaining cheese.(Trick: toss the cheese with a bit of flour).  Add decorative tomato slices.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and edges start to crisp.  Finish off under broiler for about 5 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.
  11. Let stand (if you can!!) and serve.



Makes four servings.  Unless of course you are hungry and go back to pick at the cheesy deliciousness sitting on your counter.  Then it only makes three servings…

To quote PW:  “I love you, macaroni and cheese.  Thank you for coming into my life.”


The tomatoes add a fresh zing…especially if you are anything like me and usually add ketchup to your basic boring mac & cheese.  Just make sure you get your hands on some fresh, sweet tasting tomatoes…those mid-Winter hot house things from Mexico probably won’t do it justice.


Goes well with your favourite blankie and a good movie.  Enjoy!

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Laura said...

holy yummo.

i love the cherry tomatoes on top.

JavaChick said...

One of my favorite childhood meals was something my mom made called Italian Macaroni. It was basically a mac & cheese with tomatoes. All my favorite things in one dish - pasta, tomatoes cheese! Sadly, I never make it because Husband does not like Mac & Cheese. Silly man.