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Entries in Cooking with Tomato Juice (1)

Friday
Dec202013

Italian Style Baked Macaroni And Cheese (BMC)

Talk about quick and easy! This meal takes 15-20 minutes to prep and, depending upon your broiler, around 15 minutes to broil. Let set 10-15 minutes before serving and you've got yourself an incredible main course for 4-6 adults, or a great side dish for several. The sauce is so delicious, I've often thought of eating it as a soup unto itself, but the craving for the full BMC always wins out over the desire to stop at the sauce. This recipe began with my Aunt Carol, who shared it with my Mom. Mom modified it a bit to suit her style, and from there I've added my own spin- we share the result here with you. You might like to add a spin of your own. I've always thought it might be nice to stir in some chopped spinach, but that's too radical a stray for my family! This meal broils up readily in a medium lasagne or casserole pan. 

Growing up, we always had this for lunch on Christmas Day. After all the gifts had been opened, ogled, and played with, Mom wanted to fortify us for the long day of visiting that still lay ahead. She wanted work that was fast and easy, so that she could get some much earned rest, yet still delicious and celebratory in honor of Christmas. BMC was the perfect choice. I eat this wonderful meal all year long (now with gluten free pasta and just as good-- really!), but no matter what else we serve on Christmas (who knew I'd marry a man who considered Christmas Dinner to be spoiled without Filet!), we always have BMC. Enjoy this heartwarming comfort food, any time that you choose. 

1 lb dry rigatoni pasta (it's important that the the pasta be dry and not fresh, so as not to get too soggy.)
1 46 oz can or bottle of tomato juice
1 tbs dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
2 large bay leaves
10 oz block of Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (yellow or white), sliced thin. We like Cracker Barrel but they have downsized the block to 8 oz; also be careful to avoid the 2% milk variety of Cracker Barrel. 
Optional: Several dashes of Frank's Louisianna Hot Sauce or other Cayenne Pepper Sauce to taste. I do around 6-10 dashes.

Begin heating your broiler.
Boil pasta water in large stockpot.
In a medium saucepan, begin cooking the tomato juice. Add all of the spices and Hot Sauce. Helpful hint: Put dry herbs into the palm of one hand and with the other hand on top, grind into a finer powder. This releases more flavor.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Watch carefully until boiling as once it boils it rapidly overboils. If you use an electric stove like I do, you may have to move it to a new burner and start again on a low setting.
While sauce and water boil, slice the cheese. 

Once your water is boiling, add pasta. Cook for 1/2 the recommended cooking time and drain but do not rinse.

Immediately after draining, pour 1/2 the pasta into lasagne/casserole pan. Cover with 1/2 of the cheese. It will begin melting right onto the pasta and no one could blame you if you sampled a hot noodle with melted cheese on top right there. Crunchy, but yummy. Layer remaining pasta. Pour all of the sauce over the entire casserole, being sure that all noodles are covered. Now layer the remaining cheese on top of everything.

Broil 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly, golden, and brown around the edges.

Remove from oven. Let stand 10-15 minutes to set. 

To serve: Using a large serving spoon, break through the crust and all around circumference of portion area. Gently lower the spoon below to the bottom and lift portion up. Carefully transfer to a bowl. Eats best in a bowl with a spoon. The molten cheese gets super hot so leave adequate cooling time. Test Carefully.

Mangia, and enjoy!