Caprese Mac and Cheese

I have four words for you:

Caprese. Mac. And. Cheese.

Caprese Mac and Cheese. Yes. It’s the best of both worlds here. Arguably the culinary world’s most perfect combination of flavors – tomato, basil, and mozzarella – transformed into a creamy, indulgent bowl of comforting mac and cheese.

If you love caprese salad and mac and cheese as much as I do, then this should be a pretty enticing phrase! I practically swooned when I first saw it in my issue of Cooking Light.

To make this dish a reality, first place halved grape tomatoes that have been tossed in EVOO under the broiler for just a few minutes.

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Meanwhile, cook 6 oonces of penne pasta in a large pot of water (any long tube pasta is fine – I used tortiglioni!)

Next, in a medium saucepan, sauté 2 teaspoons minced garlic for 1 minute. The final dish definitely has a prominent garlic flavor but I did not find it overwhelming at all.

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Add flour to the garlic and oil, then whisk in 1 3/4 cup milk, salt, and pepper.

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Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook for 1 minute. The mixture will have thickened slightly.

Cheese time! You’ll need 3 oz of grated mozzarella (about 3/4 cup) and 1.5 oz of grated parmesan (about 1/3 cup). This is a dynamite combination! The mozzarella provides the the luscious velvetty texture that is expected in mac and cheese, while the salty, nutty parmesan amps up the flavor.

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Stir in the grape tomatoes, along with 1/2 torn basil leaves. I harvested this basil from the potted herbs on my front porch – they are still going strong!

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Stir in the cooked pasta.

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After tossing the pasta in the cheese, tomato, and basil sauce, pour into a casserole dish coated in nonstick spray (or into ramekins for individual portions).

Are you seeing this!?

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Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and crushed red pepper flakes, and place under the broiler for about two minutes, or until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Garnish with more basil!

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A fresh, crunchy salad makes a great side dish for this creamy mac and cheese.

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I still can’t get over how luscious the mozzarella and parmesan cream sauce is! Really, the amount of cheese used in this recipe is fairly modest (4.5 ounces), which keeps the calorie count in check, yet the final product is so rich and satisfying. Cooking Light never disappoints!

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Right now it’s tomato season which makes it a perfect time to try out this recipe! We loved it.

I wouldn’t change a thing, but I’d consider subbing in other shapes and sizes of tomatoes (small ones halved, or larger ones cut into 1” chunks, then broiled in the same manner).

Caprese Mac and Cheese

Recipe from Cooking Light  (very slightly modified)

Ingredients
    • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
    • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 6 ounces uncooked penne or other tube pasta
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
    • 1.5 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
    • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
    • Cooking spray
    • 3 tablespoons panko
    • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • Small basil leaves (optional)
Preparation
  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Combine tomatoes and 2 teaspoons oil on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. Broil 3 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down.
  3. Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions, omit­ting salt and fat. Drain. Return pasta to pan.
  4. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add ­remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Add milk, salt, and black pepper, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a simmer; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in cheeses. Add cheese mixture to pasta; toss. Stir in tomato mixture and torn basil. Spoon pasta mixture into a casserole dish or 4 (6-ounce) gratin dishes coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle panko and red pepper over pasta mixture. Broil 2 minutes or until panko is browned. Garnish with basil leaves, if desired.

My rating: 8.1/10

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13 thoughts on “Caprese Mac and Cheese

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