I spent most of my childhood arguing with people that macaroni cheese wasn’t in fact just macaroni pasta and cheese sauce. Vehemently did I protest that there was meat in it and something calle “rattatoo-ee”, whatever the hell that was. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s that I had my first taste of what the rest of the world understands to be “Macaroni Cheese” and to be honest I didn’t rate it much at all against my mum’s version!
So over all these years I have stuck pretty darn close to my mum’s traditional recipe – wherever she got it from. The only change I have made is that I make my own cheese sauce to go on top rather than the packet Schwarz mix mum used, but to be honest for this particular dish, I would quite happilly use a three-cheese packet mix – just for the pure nostlagia of the dish.
Ingredients (serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite):
350g of organic lean minced beef
1tsp of olive oil
Half a red onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400g tin of ratatouile (I like the Epicure brand, or of course you could make your own if you have the time)
1 green pepper, 1cm diced pieces
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bay leaf
Small bunch of fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt
Apx 200g of any kind of pasta – doesn’t have to be macaroni: Conchiglie or Fusilli work well as well.
For the cheese sauce make a basic roux and add plenty of strong cheese.
In a frying pan, brown off the beef without adding any extra oil. When browned, turn out onto some kitchen paper.
Put the pan back on the heat and add the olive oil, onion and garlic and fry until onion is soft.
Add into the pan the peppers and cherry tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme, cook for a minute or so.
Add the tin of ratatouille and the chopped tomatoes, stir and then add the beef back into the pan.
Season well with plenty of black pepper.
Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and cook through, stirring occassionally for about 15 minutes.
Season with a small pinch of salt at the end. You don’t need much if you are using the tinned ratatoille as there will be plenty of salt in that.
Meanwhile, put the pasta on to cook remembering to season the boiling water well. Drain when the pasta is just a little over al dente.
Make the roux, add milk and cheese and stir until combined and thickly coats the back of the spoon.
Put the grill on to high.
Pour the pasta and the meat mix into a lasagne / casserole dish and mix through.
Pour the cheese sauce on top and grate a little more cheese over the top.
Place under the grill and cook until the cheese starts to brown – personally the more “burny bits” the better! Should take about 5-8 mins.
Dish out a portion on each plate and serve with a fresh salad of salad leaves with cracked black pepper and a spritz of lemon juice.
Delve in hungrilly and Enjoy!