Macaroni cheese with roasted tomatoes Picture: Toby Murphy

FRIDAY 14 July is National Mac ‘n Cheese day.
This classic comfort food, loved by so many, has to be honoured and certainly deserves its own day.

It’s not clear where or how this day came about, but as a lover of macaroni and cheese, I know what’s on my menu this Friday.

Mac and Cheese is usually served as a side dish, but can also be served as a main.

What I personally love about it is it’s versatility and the unlimited options when it comes to the filling.

I don’t think I have ever made the same kind of macaroni and cheese twice in a row.

This dish always reminds me of my childhood and the times I spent in the kitchen with my late grandmother when she used to make it.

Growing up, it was my favourite dish that my gran used to make with just three ingredients: macaroni, cheese and tomato. That was it.

No other filling and no fancy cheese sauces; just that.

In a big bowl, she would start with a layer of cooked macaroni, a very generous amount of cheese and a few slices of tomato. She would repeat this until her ingredients were finished or the bowl was full.

It wasn’t much, and admittedly, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but she always got it right.

After popping it in the oven I could never wait to get a taste of that stringy melted cheese.

My gran was a simple cook and often didn't add extras, but that’s what made her dishes so special.

Mac 'n Cheese was one of the first dishes I learned to make, and has been my favourite ever since.

I love that you’re not limited to any ingredient to use as a filling.

Anything from bacon and cheese, to spinach and mushroom or chicken and meat will add it’s own flavour to your dish. Even vegetarians can enjoy it.

Get creative with your Mac and Cheese dish this Friday and add your special touch to this classic favourite.


MACARONI CHEESE WITH ROASTED TOMATOES 

Servings: 6 | Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 40 mins | Skill Level: 1 (Easy) 

INGREDIENTS 

500 g macaroni 

40 ml butter 

40 ml flour 

2–3 cloves garlic, crushed (optional) 

750 ml warm milk 

5 ml mustard 

250 ml grated Cheddar 

freshly grated nutmeg 

12 ‘Rosa’ or cherry tomatoes, cut into thick slices or halved 

75 g cubed mozzarella for topping 

about 50 g cubed leftover bread for topping 

METHOD 

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the macaroni and cook until almost done, then drain. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the flour and add the garlic. Simmer gently till the garlic is soft and somewhat caramelised, not browned. Add half the milk, whisk until smooth, then add the rest and simmer till thickened and very smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and half the Cheddar. Season with freshly grated nutmeg and plenty of salt and pepper. 

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, stir well and put in a baking dish. Top with the rest of the grated Cheddar. Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella cubes and bread cubes on top. Bake in the oven until bubbly and golden brown (about 20 minutes). The tomatoes must start to ‘catch’ and have slightly burnt edges. 

Recipe by Errieda Du Toit from the Great South African Cookbook published by Quivertree Publications.