Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes
Of all the ingredients that get added to macaroni and cheese, few have as successful a track record as tomato.
Why This Recipe Works
Tomato started showing up in mac and cheese on menus around the turn of the 20th century and continued to appear regularly in cookbooks throughout the 1950s. Recently the combination has fallen off the radar, but we hoped to revive this once-popular recipe.
To pack in bright tomato flavor, we tried every type of tomato product we could think of—even ketchup and jarred tomato sauce—as we struggled to find the perfect balance of rich red color and bright tomato flavor. In the end, testers preferred canned petite diced tomatoes. But no matter how much tomato we piled into our macaroni, the tomato flavor just wasn't strong enough. After numerous tests, we discovered that undercooking the pasta and adding the tomatoes with their juices to the drained macaroni allowed the macaroni to soak up more of the tomato flavor. Returning the pasta to the heat afterward allowed the noodles to absorb some of the tomato juice.
Unfortunately, all that tomato flavor came at a steep price—curdled sauce. To combat the acid in the tomatoes, we added fat in the form of half-and-half (cut with some chicken broth) and a mix of sharp and mild cheddar cheese.