Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese Bake

Happy New Year, everyone! I was so excited to see some new recipes pop up here this week! Fun stuff. I can't wait to try them out.

Since coming home from our vacation to Colorado, Paul and I haven't been very good about eating dinner at home. Finally, yesterday, Paul said, "Would it be ok if we have a home cooked meal tonight?" Oops. My bad! ;) He was right. We definitely needed to break our current trend of picking up something somewhere each night.

I was in the mood to try something new, so I headed over to My Kitchen Cafe and browsed the recipes for a while.

This is the recipe I ended up choosing. It was delicious (despite some mistakes on my part)! I'm going to try it again for sure because I was missing one of the main spices.

You should try it, too!

Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese Bake

12 oz. Italian sausage*
2 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 c. sliced olives (I just used a small can even though it was less than a cup because Paul's not a huge fan of olives)
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 T. butter
1 1/2 T. flour
1 t. dried sage**
1/4 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c. milk (I used James' whole milk so it would be creamier)
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

*The recipe actually says to use pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage, but Paul was picking up the ingredients for me on his way home, and it was much easier for him to find Italian sausage. Plus, I thought Paul might enjoy Italian sausage more. She did mention in her original recipe that Italian sausage could be substituted.

**Yep, I thought I had sage, but I didn't. I was worried the dish would be too bland without it, so I increased the amount of thyme. I probably shouldn't have done that because the thyme flavor was a bit overwhelming in the end.

Cook macaroni noodles according to directions on package, except reduce cooking time by 1-2 minutes because the pasta bakes in the oven later. Brown sausage and drain grease. Combine pasta, sausage, olives, cream cheese, and mozzarella cheese in a large bowl (or, if you are me and want to limit the number of dishes, just use the big pot you cooked the pasta in).

Combine flour and spices in a small bowl. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add the flour/spice mixture and stir with a wire whisk constantly for about 30 seconds. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Cook and stir for 5-6 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Pour over pasta mixture.

Spoon pasta mixture into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Then, top the pasta with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes, uncovered. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving.

It was a really flavorful dish! James even loved it! I especially loved the tomatoes on top, and I'll probably add even more tomatoes next time. The olives also added a great flavor, though I probably won't get away with adding more of those since Paul doesn't really like them.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese Bake.


Emily said...
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Paula said...

Yum! I'm so going to try this one soon. I love pasta dishes.

Emily said...

You're right! It's very flavorful. Aaron loved it, but I think I baked it a little too long because it was a little dry....otherwise delicious!

Paula said...

Yum! I really liked this pasta dish and plan to make it lots more times! I forgot to cover mine when I cooked it, so it was a little dry. And I agree Jennie, I'm going to put more tomatoes next time!