Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dinner | macaroni and cheese

Rare in this house that there is ONE version of ONE meal that everyone in this house will eat. The baby is still working on chewing solids, the toddler would be content to eat chicken, broccoli and carrots every single night of the week, the vegetarian, well, he's a not-so-vegetable-loving vegetarian, and the cook (that's me) will eat just about anything and always makes at least 2 variations of any one dish.

I've gotten very good at coming up with quick ways to alter most things into a vegetarian version using a variety of "fake" meat products and vegetables, but I really just love when I can make one thing with no changes and no extra pots and pans. Macaroni and cheese the way my dad used to make it is a staple that makes it into the rotation about every other week.

I've made a lot of macaroni and cheese recipes, but this one that really has no recipe at all is one of my favorites. Everything my dad cooks is my favorite, really. No rue, no making a cheese sauce, no spending $20 to make mac and cheese. Just layering tons of cheese, tomatoes, macaroni, and onion in a pan. Easy. And I suppose you could add a salad or sprinkle in some broccoli, but why do people always try to ruin intentionally non-healthy recipes with all of that healthy stuff. I guess I'm a purist.

Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes
There are no set measurements for this. Everything is "to taste". It can be prepared in any size baking dish, or even in a single layer on a cookie sheet if you like the macaroni extra crunchy. We eat a ton of it, so this recipe makes a large casserole which would feed probably at least 6 civilized humans.

1 pound macaroni, cooked and drained according to package (make sure to add lots of salt to the water)
1/2 onion, diced finely
garlic powder / granulated garlic (not garlic salt, that's totally different)
1 lb. cheese, grated (probably won't need all of it, but the more, the better)
1 14 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes (both are good, just depends on how you like it and which one you have in the cupboard)
1 small can tomato sauce
small pats of butter
salt and pepper (lots!)

Preheat oven to 425.
In a large casserole pan, sprinkle a few pieces of butter, followed by a layer of macaroni. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic. Sprinkle onions on top. Drizzle tomato sauce and tomatoes and cover the entire layer with cheese. Repeat until the pan is full. Throw it in the oven for about 45 minutes or until crispy on the edges and all melted inside. The longer you cook it, the deeper the tomato flavor becomes, which is most definitely a good thing.

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