This is macaroni cheese, made slightly spicy with the addition of cayenne pepper and paprika and slightly skinny with the additional of tinned tomatoes (that’s where the tomatoey bit comes in too!)
I’d like to share with you another of my favourite comfort recipes. I don’t just eat comfort food, honest….but at this time of year, the weather is so cold and its so nice inside with a bowl of something comforting, I just can’t help myself.
This is a recipe I’ve made up over the years, mainly by trying “a bit of this and a bit of that”. I believe that recipes for this type of food can’t really be an exact science and so you might need to tinker a little bit with this in places (I’ve tried to help out below where I can!) to make it perfect just for you.
Ingredients (for 2 people – but easily increased or decreased!)
- 100g macaroni pasta
- 2 rashers of thick-cut bacon (might need 3 or 4 for thinner bacon)
- 1 onion (brown / white / red, any will do!)
- 20g light margarine 20g plain flour
- 1/4tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1tsp dijon mustard
- pinch nutmeg (ground)
- 160ml semi-skimmed milk (ish, you might need a splash more or less)
- 100g “light” cheese
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 120g frozen peas
- 1 slice of bread (made into bred crumbs)
- 1tsp cornflour (optional)
1. Put the macaroni in a pan of water and simmer for around 10 minutes, until the pasta is still “al-dente” (slightly crunchy still)
2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, chop the onion and the bacon and cook over a low heat until softened.
3. Add margarine to the bacon / onion mix (Note: you can use normal margarine or butter instead of the “light” variety I have specified if you’d rather, I try to keep it skinnier by using “light” variety. Check the packet though, some “lightest” range are mainly water and so not suitable for frying! – don’t use these)
4. Once the Margarine has melted, add the flour and mix together to form a “roux”
5. Check the pasta (its about this time that its ready for me…depends if how fast you are at chopping / measuring / finding the margarine in the fridge though!) Once it is cooked to “al-dente”, drain the water and add the tomatoes to the pan with the pasta. Simmer the pasta and tomato mix until the tomatoes have thickened
6. Back in the other pan…slowly add the milk, a little bit at a time, stirring until combined each time, until it has formed a thick paste (if you add the milk too quickly, the flour will go lumpy).
7. Add the paprika, mustard and nutmeg and cayenne pepper (feel free to add more or less depending how spicy you want it – this is only “slightly spicy”), and stir until combined
8. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce (note, this will make the sauce feel a bit thicker but don’t worry, that’s fine!)
9. Add the pasta / tomato mix to the sauce
10. At this point, check the consistency of the sauce. Depending how long the tomatoes have had to simmer and how thick the original paste was, it might be perfect or it might not be. I like the sauce to be really thick but if you want it to be a bit more runny, add a splash more milk. If it has got a bit too runny, mix up a teaspoon of cornflour with some cold milk and add this to the pan, this should thicken it up.
11. Add the peas, stir through, season to taste with salt and pepper and check the sauce is cheesy enough (feel free to add more cheese at this point if it isn’t! – I do that at this stage because the addition of tomatoes changes the taste of the sauce, so even if it tastes cheesy enough before, its good to check again)
12. Put in an oven-proof dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 180°C fan (200°C conventional) for 15-20 minutes until brown and bubbling.
Eat as much of it as you can, nice served with a green side salad.