The name says it all!
6 small vine tomatoes
150g (5 oz) free-range streaky bacon, chopped
50g (1½ oz) butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
4 level Tbsp standard flour
2½ cups milk
½ cup cream
1 Tbsp creamy Dijonnaise mustard
2 cups grated vintage cheddar cheese
300g (10-11 oz) elbow macaroni or small shell-shaped pasta
¼ cup fresh white breadcrumbs and ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese mixed together
1 Quarter tomatoes, discarding cores, and chop finely. Transfer to a sieve and drain for 15 minutes.
2 Cook bacon over medium heat in an oiled frying pan (skillet) until crisp, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
3 Melt butter in a small saucepan, add onion and cook gently until tender and lightly golden. Remove pan from heat and stir in flour, then milk, cream and mustard. Place back on heat and bring to the boil, stirring with a whisk, then cook for 1 minute. Season with ½ a teaspoon of salt. Remove pan from heat and blend in 1 cup of cheddar; the sauce should be like a rich, thick cream (thin it with a little milk if necessary – if it is too thick it will be gluggy in the finished dish). Do not reboil after the cheese has been added. Cover pan with a lid.
4 Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Cook pasta in plenty of gently boiling, well‑salted water until 60-70% cooked – you should still be able to see some visible white uncooked starch if you bite into a piece; don’t over-cook it or it will be flabby by the time it is served. Drain, turn it into a large bowl and stir through hot or warm sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the pasta, but thin enough so excess pools in the bottom of the bowl.
5 Put half the macaroni and sauce in a shallow ovenproof dish (or dishes), then put in some diced tomato and a little bacon. Fill with more macaroni and sauce, scatter with remaining cheese, then parmesan crumbs.
6 Have a baking sheet (tray) in the oven to catch spills. Put the dish (or dishes) on the tray and bake for 15–20 minutes until bubbling around the edges, crusty and a good golden brown on top.
I could just about write a whole book on Macaroni Cheese. So beloved when made well, and so despised when gluey, tasteless or flabby, and fair enough. It’s imperative that the pasta is not overcooked when it is boiled before mixing with the sauce.
Choose a good brand of pasta, preferably Italian, to be sure it will hold together after cooking and give the dish ‘bounce’ (which equates to lightness). Inferior pasta collapses, no matter how carefully you cook it.
For a change, make mini mac ‘n cheeses! Bit more of a fiddle, but it can be done.
Line a 12-hole deep muffin tray with pieces of baking paper. The best way to do this is to cut two strips for each hole and to lay one horizontally and the other vertically, so that all the metal is covered with paper. Half-fill with macaroni and sauce, then put in some diced tomato and a little bacon. Fill with more macaroni and sauce, mounding it nice and high. Scatter over remaining cheese, then parmesan crumbs.