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Caprese Macaroni and Cheese

Give Macaroni and Cheese a Summery (Caprese!) Spin

I asked Laura Werlin, a cheese expert, to share her tips on making a Summer-appropriate macaroni and cheese. She answered, "I have a whole chapter [in Mac & Cheese, Please!] called 'Lighten Up, Cool Down,' and those recipes are all intended to be a little easier to make and a little lighter in spirit and in substance. I really like the goat cheese, mozzarella, basil, and tomato mac and cheese. It's basically a play on the caprese salad. It's just so light, summery, easy to make, and really satisfying."

Lucky for us, she sent over the recipe so we could test it, and it's no exaggeration when I say this is one recipe I plan to make again and again. The dish is like nostalgia and vacation stirred together. First, the gooey mac and cheese brings you back to the staple dinner you enjoyed as a kid, and second, the fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella will make you feel like you're dining at a piazza in Italy.

Goat Cheese, Mozzarella, Basil, and Tomato Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Mac & Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin

Notes

The original recipe calls for skim milk. I used whole milk here, but feel free to use whatever milk you have on hand.

In addition, use whatever mozzarella you can get your hands on. I used the little orbs, because they are fun to discover when melted throughout the pasta.

Caprese Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. 8 ounces conchiglie (shell) pasta
  3. 1 tablespoon salted butter
  4. 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if needed
  5. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  6. 2 1/2 cups milk
  7. 1 log (4 ounces) fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
  8. 6 ounces ciliegine fresh mozzarella
  9. 1 ounce parmesan cheese, finely grated
  10. 3/4 cup fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade
  11. 2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped
  12. 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  13. Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Fill a 4- to 5-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to package directions, stirring once or twice, until al dente. Then drain.
  2. Using the same pot you used to make the pasta, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smells a bit nutty. Turn heat to medium-low. Slowly whisk in the milk and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the mixture is hot and just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the cheeses and lemon zest and stir until the sauce is smooth but not runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it's soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. Add pasta, tomatoes, and basil and stir just until mixed in. Ladle into bowls and top with black pepper. Serve right away.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
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