Lighter Macaroni and Cheese
To wit, these individual mac-and-cheese casseroles call for pungent Parmesan and extra-sharp cheddar, which means the noodles get away with less-than-usual amounts of cheese. Low-fat milk, chicken stock, and olive oil keep the sauce creamy.
- 6 small vine-ripened tomatoes (3-inch) cut into 24 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for sprinkling
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 5 slices white sandwich bread, with crust
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 2 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk
- 8 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread tomatoes in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes have softened, about 20 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Process bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with remaining tablespoon oil in amedium skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook pasta until almost al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, and run under cold water to stop cooking. Transfer to a large bowl; set aside.
Whisk 1/2 cup stock into the flour in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add milk and remaining 1 1/2 cups stock. Whisk in flour mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce to a simmer. Cook 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Add cheeses; cook, stirring, until melted. Pour over macaroni, stirring to combine.
Put eight 4 1/2-by-1 1/4-inch ramekins on a baking sheet. Put 2 tomato slices in bottom of each ramekin. Divide macaroni mixture evenly among ramekins. Top each with a tomato slice. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and thyme sprigs. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.