Caprese mac and cheese is the family classic given a fresh twist with delicious Caprese flavours. Fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella take it up a notch.
When you have kids, you probably eat an awful lot of mac and cheese. Well, we do anyway. And even though I love macaroni and cheese (like, really love), there’s only so many times I can eat it before I get tired of it. Thus, I am forced to come up with interesting flavour additions to make this family staple a bit more interesting. Not only for us adults but also for the kids. I want them to be exposed to more than just carbs and cheese. And that’s how this baked Caprese mac and cheese was born.
I’ve added tomato slices to my macaroni cheese for a really long time and wanted to amp it up a notch and since I had a big batch of home-made basil pesto in the fridge, I thought it a good idea to add a few dollops. And it was! It was also clear that I was on the path to Caprese deliciousness and decided to add some milky, luscious fior di latte which turned this Caprese mac and cheese into something rather special. All in all, this is a fabulous mac and cheese recipe which is great for weeknight dinners but also something I will happily serve to guests.
How do I make homemade macaroni and cheese?
Start by making a roux by melting butter in a saucepan and whisking in flour. Slowly whisk in milk (you can add flavorants like bay leaf, peppercorns or other herbs) and cook over medium heat until a thick sauce (Béchamel sauce) forms. Turn the heat down then whisk in grated cheese. Add the par-cooked macaroni or pasta of your choice with a splash of the pasta cooking water and transfer to a casserole dish. Top with grated cheese then bake until golden brown and bubbling.
What’s the best cheese for mac and cheese?
Cheese that are good for sauce and melt well are cheddar (using mature cheddar will add heaps of flavor to the sauce), Gruyère, Havarti, Raclette, Fontina, Parmesan or mozzarella. Try combining milder cheese (like mozzarella) with a strong cheese (like Parmesan) for extra creamy, cheesy flavor.
Caprese Mac and Cheese
for the sauce
- 100 g butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 litre milk warmed with 1 bay leaf, 1/2 onion and 5 black peppercorns
- pinch of nutmeg
- 150 g gruyere/ other strong mature cheese, grated
- salt & white pepper to taste
for the tomato layer
- 400 g tin whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
for the mac and cheese
- 500 g pasta of your choice I used a spiral shaped tube, cooked + 1 cup of cooking water reserved
- 8 ripe tomatoes sliced into 1/2 cm slices
- 1/2 cup basil pesto
- 150 g fior di latte or other mozzarella of your choice
- To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan then add the flour and whisk to make a roux.
- Slowly whisk in the milk until it has been fully incorporated.
- Turn the heat down, add the nutmeg and allow the sauce to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Turn down the heat then add the cheese, salt and pepper and stir until the cheese has melted.
- Mix the sauce with the pasta and add a little of the cooking water should the sauce be too thick.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
- To make the tomato layer, add the salt and sugar to the tomatoes and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Pour in the bottom of an oven-proof dish.
- Place half of the pasta in the dish on top of the tomatoes then top with half of the tomato slices and cheese. Dollop on the basil pesto.
- Top with the remaining pasta.
- Top with the remaining tomatoes and cheese then place in the oven.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes are roasted slightly and the cheese has melted and is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.