Tuscan Macaroni and Cheese

  Fellow carb-lovers, today’s recipe is for you.  Atkins followers, just turn away.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now, and every time I forget just how good it is.  Pasta, cheese, gooey bread, olives AND tomatoes…it’s sorta of like somebody took my favorite things list and used it as an ingredient list.
  Here’s what you need:
8 oz sweet or hot Italian sausage
2 cups cooked, drained macaroni
8 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
4 oz crusty bread cut into 1″ cubes
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 Tbs fresh sage OR 1 tsp dried sage, crushed
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cup milk
1 medium tomato, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  If you haven’t done it already, cook your pasta.  As always, I am of the opinion you should use what you have.  The original recipe calls for elbow mac, but we tend to wind up using penne.  Next, brown your sausage in a skillet and drain the fat out.  When you’re shopping, you want ground beef type sausage, not links.  In a big bowl, mix your sausage, cooked pasta, cream cheese (don’t worry about getting it into perfect cubes, you just want it in smaller bits so it’ll mix more easily), bread cubes, olives and mozzarella.  Set aside.
  In a medium saucepan, melt your butter (medium heat).  Stir in your flour and spices.  Dump your milk in and cook until slightly thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Pour the sauce over your sausage mixture and stir gently.
  Pour everything into a large casserole dish.  Bake, covered with tin foil, for 35 minutes.  Uncover and top with tomato slices and parm and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.  Let everything cool for around 15 minutes before serving to avoid seared off faces.
  I love this recipe.  You can spice it up by using hot Italian sausage or just use sweet and enjoy the creamy cheese and olives.  Plus, it freezes wonderfully.  We typically eat one half the pan for dinner and then save the other half in the freezer.
  *sighs* Well now I’m hungry…

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