Amy came home from Nashville, TN and raved about this amazing mac and cheese she’d had while there and so I offered to recreate it for her. The dish contained roasted red bell peppers, mushrooms and spinach. The restaurant used Campanelle which is a really pretty flower shaped pasta. I couldn’t find that near me so I opted for Gemelli. As long as the pasta makes a good vehicle for the cheese sauce, use whichever type you prefer. I especially love this dish because it doesn’t need to bake for an hour in the oven like traditional mac and cheese. Oh and it’s full of veggies. So this dish would also be great for anyone trying to encourage Beige aka picky eaters to consume a variety of vegetables. Feel free to mix up the veggies with whatever is seasonal and local to you. I went with blistered red bells, fresh spinach and Portobello mushrooms.
1 pkg Cheddar Cheese blend
1 medium sized block Gruyere, shredded
1 cup half n half
1 cup Cashew milk (or 2%)
4 large tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon EVOO
5 large Portobello mushroom caps, diced
1 red bell pepper
1 cup fresh spinach, loosely packed
1 tab butter
1 tablespoon King Arthur All Purpose Flour
Salt and Pepper
1 lb pasta of your choice, cooked per pkg instructions
note: you want pasta that will hold the cheese sauce well and stand own it’s own with the veggies such as Campanelle, Gemelli, or Rotini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl toss the quartered tomatoes with EVOO, salt, and pepper. Toss to evenly coat and place on a foil lined sheet pan. Roast tomatoes in the oven at 30 to 45 minutes. The tomatoes should darken in cooler in deepen in their flavor the longer the roast. Remove from oven and allow tomatoes to cool. Remove skins if desired and add tomatoes to a mixing bowl. Crush the tomatoes with a fork or potato masher. Set aside.
Over a high heat flame with a pair of tongs, blister the red bell pepper on all sides until the skin has blackened. Place red bell in a mixing bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow the bell to cool then remove the skin and seeds from the pepper. Julienne the red bell and set aside. Note: if you do not have a gas range you can quickly broil it. Remember to turn the bell frequently until skin has blackened on all sides.
Combine cheeses in a mixing bowl, set aside. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt one tab of butter and stir in the flour. Combine well and saute for about one minute. Whisk in the half and half, Cashew milk, and crushed roasted tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer until milk has thickened, about 15 – 20 minutes. Add diced mushrooms and simmer two minutes more or until mushrooms have softened slightly. Turn off heat and in batches slowly whisk in cheese. Wait until the first batch has completely melted into the sauce before adding additional cheese. Once you have a thick cheese sauce, adjust seasonings as needed. Pour cheese sauce over pasta, mix well. Gently stir in fresh spinach and roasted red bell pepper. Serve immediately.