There are some dishes that just scream a certain season to me. A big pot of chili or anything involving a gourd in the fall. Hearty, meat-heavy dishes that are roasted or stewed or crockpot-ed in the winter. But summer… Probably the most seasonally iconic dishes are summer ones! There are just so many – burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, popsicles, salads topped with fruit, triangles of juicy watermelon, and a newspaper-covered picnic table with Old Bay seasoned whole crabs piled on top! Right up there at the top of the summer food list is caprese salad. Fresh, cool, and best with ripe summer tomatoes, caprese salad is definitely quintessential summer fare. So today when coming up with this dish, I thought that the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil of a caprese salad would make for an interesting summery twist on Mac n cheese!
We have a caveat to our post today though. Neither of us actually ate this dish. I made it for our friends who just had a new baby! They swear it was good, so we’ll just have to take their word for it. Relatedly, the base Mac & cheese recipe here (also the base for Goat Mac), is a great option if you want to make something ahead to bring to someone! You can make it up until the last baking part and then whomever you bring it to can bake it for the appropriate length of time later (which you may need to increase by 10 minutes or so from the immediate baking time as below).
Summer Mac n Cheese
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 5 cups dry small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, etc)
- 16oz mozzarella cheese
- Salt & pepper
- ~10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
- Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
- Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
- Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
- Moving back to the stove, slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
- When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
- Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
- When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
- Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.