Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soupy, Saucy Macaroni

Yeah, yeah, I know a post about macaroni right after holiday baking is a bit of a let down. I know. But follow me on this one. I know I should be wiring about eggnog cheesecake squares and butter basted turkey, but just to tell you the truth, holiday cooking scares me just a touch. I know .. I just wrote about how I love baking for the holidays. So I'm a total flake, I admit it.

Anyway, if you haven't stopped reading yet, let me share with you a very simple, but delicious and comforting meal that feels good going down and will keep you fueled and charged whether it's to get through the holiday rush, or to stay up later on January 2nd when you've realized that all the work you brought home to do over the holidays has just sat in your bag untouched since December 17th. Right...

We had this meal right around the start of the holidays when we needed something yummy, healthy and comforting to have on a cold night. I had plans for lots of holiday baking and making homemade decorations. In short, I needed to be energized, and this dish did just that. It's not a cheesy, rich, baked macaroni dish. Quite the contrary. The macaroni bakes in a very brothy, light tomato and vegetable mixture and is topped with crispy breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. The secret here is homemade vegetable stock and a little patience. It's not fancy or authentic. In fact, the macaroni isn't even "el dente" -- its slightly overcooked because it's been baked in the soupy sauce, but don't let that fool you. It's comforting, delicious and a tradition in the making. I think I'll make it a tradition to have this baked macaroni dish on the first day of my holidays. Yes! Tradition set.

Brothy Macaroni and Veggies

1 cup of uncooked macaroni
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3-4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (or you could you a small can on tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste
1 small sprig of thyme (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
3-4 basil leaves, chopped (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
a bit of grated mozzarella cheese

1. Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water until almost tender. Drain and set aside.

2. In an oven proof pot, sweat the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. If you're using dried herbs, add them now. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes,

3. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down and the juices start getting sticky. Add the broth and give it a good stir, making sure to pick up all the yummy bits that may of gotten stuck to the pot. If you're using fresh herbs, add them now.

4. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer until the liquid has a reduced a little. Add in the macaroni. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until the top is nice and golden brown and the liquid has further reduced.

5. Remove from the oven and serve.

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