Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mac & Cheese Dressed up for Mother's Day #SundaySupper


Mac and Cheese Dressed Up for Mother's Day #SundaySupper

As soon as the heavy old door creaks open, I smell the beefy aroma of the burger sizzling in the skillet. The more subtle scent of stewed tomatoes simmering soon follows. This is the smell of a childhood Friday evening at my Nana's home. Mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes and burger (if we weren't in Lent). My mother has never been one to get preoccupied with the details of food (like me), though she managed to get healthy family meals on our table each night and somehow kept up with my ravenous teenage appetite. But spending time with family, including her mother and the extended group of my aunts, uncles and cousins, has always been very important to her. Growing up, those family gatherings on Thomas Street always featured a meal prepared by my Nana.

On Sundays, regardless of how hot it might be in those pre-central air days, Nana would cook a large roast beef with plenty of potatoes to feed whoever might make it for the week's family meal. Friday evenings were a simpler affair, with mac and cheese ready for those of us who dropped by. When thinking about a memory and recipe to share for this Mother's Day #SundaySupper, something from my Nana's kitchen seemed to make sense, given the importance my mother places on our extended family gatherings. Though the roast beef dinners have special memories for us all, my mother is more likely to enjoy pasta these days, so I decided to do an updated version of my Nana's Friday evening meal. She loves a good salad, too, and goes nicely with the entree.

In my Mac and Cheese Dressed Up for Mother's Day, a hearty mac and cheese casserole is topped with a sauce that has savory beef and tomato, which also has a touch of sweetness from the onions. Ingredients like feta cheese, sauteed onions, low-fat yogurt and pumpkin seeds pack in a lot of flavor without using as much cheddar as one might otherwise for mac and cheese. This experiment was definitely a winner here. Give it a try next time you are looking for some flavorful comfort food!

Mac and Cheese Topped with Beef Stewed Tomatoes, served with a big salad for #SundaySupper

For the Mac and Cheese Casserole
12 ozs elbow macaroni
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 of a large sweet onion such as Vidalia, chopped
1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
6 oz plain low fat yogurt
3/4 cup shredded cheese that melts well--I used mostly cheddar with a bit of Tomme I had on hand.
1/3 cup feta
1/2 tsp garlic powder
handful kalamata olives, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
generous handful pumpkin seeds (sliced almonds would work, too)
salt and pepper to taste

For the Beef Stewed Tomato Topping
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 of a sweet onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400. Start water to boil to cook the pasta and cook al dente according to package instructions as you prepare the onion mixture in the next step.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet, then add the larger portion of onions. Saute on medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the red pepper and Herbes de Provence and saute for another 5 minutes.

adding feta for a tasty mac & cheese casserole topped with beef and stewed tomatoes. Cooking Chat recipe.

Drain the pasta when cooked al dente. Don't overcook as it continues to cook in the oven. Toss the pasta with 1 tbsp olive oil and the garlic powder. Stir in the yogurt, the feta, olives, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 cup of the cheddar.  Pour the pasta mixture into a casserole dish and spread it around so that it is evenly distributed. Top it off by sprinkling around the remaining cheddar, breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds. Spray it with a bit of oil to help with the browning of the top.

mac & cheese casserole fresh from the oven. Cooking Chat recipe

Cover the casserole dish and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the cover and cook for another 5 minutes to brown the top.

adding stewed tomatoes to beef for mac & cheese topping. Cooking Chat recipe

Get the topping going after placing the casserole in the oven. Heat the remaining tbsp olive oil in a skillet or sauce pan. Add the diced onion, saute on medium for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another minute, then push the onion to the edges of the pan. Add the beef to the pan, breaking it up with a heavy spoon. Let the beef cook for a few minutes before stirring it together with the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes until the beef is browned on the outside. Stir in the stewed tomatoes, and simmer gently as the casserole finishes cooking.
Mac and Cheese before getting the beef & tomato topping for #SundaySupper.
mac & cheese ready for topping
When the casserole has finished cooking, remove it from the oven. Plate a serving of the mac and cheese, topping it with a generous scoop or two of the beef and tomato mixture. Serve with a green salad and a hearty red wine, such a grenache/syrah blend.

Mac & Cheese Dressed Up for Mother's Day, served with a green salad.

Sunday Supper Movement
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Check out all the great #SundaySupper creations from my fellow bloggers! And a big thanks to That Skinny Chick Can Bake for hosting this week's event!

Mother's Day Breakfast:
Mother's Day Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Mother's Day Main Dishes:
Mother's Day Desserts: