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Cooking with Kids: Pasta with Things Mixed In (Aka Lemony Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes)

Sometimes kids have the best ideas! This Lemony Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes recipe was my son’s idea and it’s so good.

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.

Yield: 4 servings

Lemony Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes

Lemony Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes

Sometimes kids have the best ideas! This Lemony Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes recipe was my son's idea and it's so good.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 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


  1. 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).
  2. Next, whisk in the milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened.
  3. Whisk in the cheddar cheese and lemon zest (if using). Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the pasta and cheddar sauce. Stir well. Add the tomatoes in and stir well.
  5. Serve immediately.

The Teacher Cooks

Tuesday 27th of April 2010

Will needs to stop by my house and help me plan dinner. He does a great job. I love macaroni and cheese with tomatoes. I was just discussing this with my class when we were making traditional mac and cheese. None of them were familiar with it. I usually put sliced tomatoes on the last 5 minutes of baking, but your sounds great and easier! .-= The Teacher Cooks´s last blog ..Cheese Dip Super Bowl Style =-.

Stephanie Wise

Tuesday 27th of April 2010

YUM. I love finding new adaptations on mac and cheese. The one I make has Italian herbs and cheeses, but I'll have to try this variation, too! PS Thanks for your comment on my blog!

Liz - Meal Makeover Mom

Tuesday 27th of April 2010

That recipe looks great. I love a homemade cheese sauce -- and the addition of the lemon zest sounds perfect now that it's finally warming up around here! When my boys were younger, they ate tomaotes all the time. Now (boo hoo), I can't get them to eat tomatoes (unless they're part of a pureed sauce). Other than the tomato issue, they're great about eating most other veggies. Sounds like Will is a great eater!

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