Will is a boy who loves food, loves making food and loves planning things related to food. So do I, but he’s only four. This evening, he decided that he wanted a part in the dinner planning. “Mommy, can we have pasta for dinner tonight,” he asked.
I plan our meals on the weekends, so dinner was already settled tonight. But switching out the planned couscous for pasta really wasn’t a big deal this time. Six out of seven days, my kids request pasta for one meal or another. I’d be lying if I said that I agreed all the time. We actually only have pasta once or twice a week. But sometimes, I am all for giving them what they want. Tonight seemed like a good time for that.
“We’re having Lemon Oregano Chicken and salad. I guess we could have pasta too. What do you want on it,” I asked him, half planning in my head how I might mix in some feta and lemon zest.
Will thought for a minute. “That green stuff.” Obviously, he meant pesto … don’t all kids love pesto? Well, mine do.
“Sorry, we’re out of pesto.”
“Ok. Then we can have it plain with things mixed in,” he replied, very matter-of-factly.
“What kind of things mixed in, Will?”
“Hmm. Tomatoes. And cheese. And maybe that yellow cheese. Write it down so we don’t forget,” he replied. I had to giggle when he suggested I write it down … but I reached for my pencil anyway and made a list.
When he said yellow cheese, I realized that a cheddar sauce would be perfect for this. I used the sauce a bit from my Easy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese as a base, slightly adapted, and threw in some lemon zest to give it a zing. Once the sauce was done, Will mixed everything together …
The result was a creamy, lemony macaroni and cheese dotted with sweet bits of tomato. Loved it. My boy has good ideas. But, if you aren’t a huge lemon fan, the zest can totally be omitted and it will still be great.
Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes
1 tbsp salted butter
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 lb pasta, cooked
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook until it forms a smooth paste (about 1 minute).
Next, whisk in the milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened.
Whisk in the cheddar cheese and lemon zest (if using). Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta and cheddar sauce. Stir well. Add the tomatoes in and stir well.