When I went searching for my latest mac and cheese recipe to try, I was looking for something outside the normal realm of mac and cheese. I toyed with Italian, but nothing was striking my fancy. Indian, however, sounded just perfect. I found a few different masala mac and cheese recipes and decided to go with a healthy version, courtesy of The Foodie Physician.
Gathering my ingredients, I was really excited to incorporate ginger, garlic, cumin, cilantro and turmeric into a mac and cheese. I was SO looking forward to the heady scent that these spices invariably produce. And combining them with mac and cheese? Oh boy, nothing but good could come of this.
I also tried using fresh pasta for this recipe. Side note: I never want to buy anything but fresh pasta from now on. I got my fresh radiatore from Lagana Pasta and I HIGHLY recommend trying them. Oh my.
First, cook the pasta for two minutes less than package directions. Drain, then set aside. While your pasta is cooking, prepare your ingredients. Slice and chop the tomatoes, mince the onion, ginger and garlic, and measure out your spices.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil and then the onion. Sauté until the onion is softened and somewhat translucent, about ten minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic and cook for two minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce begins to thicken, about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Time for the béchamel (I love this part)! In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add your flour and whisk madly, cooking for about two minutes (whisking the whole time). Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking continuously, for about two minutes or until the béchamel begins to thicken.
Add 2 1/2 cups of the Cheddar and 1/2 cup of the Monterey Jack cheeses to the pot and stir until melted. Next, add the tomato masala mixture and stir to combine. Add the chopped cilantro (save a little for garnish though) and stir, then add the cooked pasta. Stir until everything is blended and happy.
Pour the mac and cheese into a Pammed 13×9 baking pan and arrange the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup each of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses on top of the tomatoes. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cheeses are nice and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes, then garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve.
Looks amazing, right? And it was! The essential masala-ness of the mac and cheese came through loud and clear, but wasn’t overbearing. The inherent cheesiness of the mac and cheese paired so nicely with the Indian flavors – divine! Four elbows up!
Here is my recipe, adapted from The Foodie Physician.
- 16 ounces fresh radiatore pasta
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups Roma tomatoes, chopped and two additional Roma tomatoes, sliced
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 cups fat-free milk, warmed
- 3 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (+ additional for garnish)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees; Pam a 13x9 baking pan.
- Cook pasta in a large pot for two minutes less than called for on the package directions. Drain, then set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil and then the onion. Saute the onion until soft and translucent, about ten minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce begins to thicken, about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Over medium heat in the pot in which you cooked the pasta, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk, cooking for about two minutes. Still whisking, slowly add the warm milk. Cook, whisking, for about two minutes or until the bechamel starts to thicken.
- Add 2½ cups of the Cheddar and ½ cup of the Monterey Jack cheeses to the pot and stir until melted. Add the tomato masala mixture and stir to combine. Add the chopped cilantro (save a little for garnish though) and stir, then add the cooked pasta. Stir until combined.
- Pour the mac and cheese into the Pammed baking pan and top with the sliced tomatoes, then the remaining ½ cup each of the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
- Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes. Plate and garnish with remaining cilantro.
- Serve and scarf down immediately!
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