Follow Ina Garten's Tomato Tip To Boost The Flavor Of Mac And Cheese

Baked macaroni and cheese in two ramekins with slices of tomatoes
Baked macaroni and cheese in two ramekins with slices of tomatoes - Minadezhda/Getty Images

Beloved TV personality, chef, and former gourmet food store owner Ina Garten has a knack for upgrading any dish into the most elegant and flavorful version of itself. Her graceful and calm demeanor as she prepares complex multi-course meals and extravagant desserts is certainly an admirable feat, but many of her tips and tricks are attainable by even the greenest of home cooks. A case in point is her effortless yet impactful tomato tip to elevate a classic mac and cheese casserole.

Garten recommends adding sliced tomatoes to the top of mac and cheese before baking the casserole. Tomatoes and cheese are a classic duo, as evidenced by pizza, lasagna, and grilled cheese dunked in tomato soup. While raw tomatoes offer a mild tanginess and juiciness, baking them will bring out a concentrated sweet and umami flavor to complement the salty, savory cheeses like Gruyère, Parmesan, and cheddar, and the richness of the milky roux.

They'll also offer a delicate soft bite and a pop of color to the dish, so you'll get a visual, textural, and flavorful upgrade. In a recipe on her website, Garten swaps the typical shredded cheese topping for sliced tomato rounds and butter-soaked bread crumbs for a well-balanced sweet and savory flavor boost and a tasteful toasty crunch from the bread crumbs.

Read more: 13 Unexpected Ingredients To Elevate Lasagna

Seasoning And Elaborating On Your Tomato Mac And Cheese

A mix of colorful whole and sliced tomatoes
A mix of colorful whole and sliced tomatoes - Carlosgaw/Getty Images

Topping mac and cheese with slices of tomatoes is a simple and affordable way to upgrade your favorite baked mac and cheese recipe. You can use any type of fresh tomato you'd like. If you really want a show-stopping presentation, you could even use slices of multi-colored heirloom tomatoes. Sliced cherry tomatoes, meanwhile, would add more sweetness to the mix along with a bright burst of bite-sized juiciness.

Nutmeg and crushed black pepper are essential seasonings to enhance the savory and creamy cheese sauce, but the addition of umami-packed tomatoes opens up new avenues for flavor pairings. Curry powder, smoked paprika, or a dash of hot sauce would add unique complementary flavors that would pair well with tomatoes and cheese. You could also upgrade your bread crumbs with additional spices, herbs, and seasonings.

A blend of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried basil, and oregano would give your mac and cheese a savory, salty, Italian twist. If you want to further enhance the umami richness of the tomatoes, you could toss the bread crumbs in reserved sun-dried tomato oil. And, for Southern flair, you could swap white bread crumbs for cornbread crumbs spiced with cayenne and paprika to toast over green tomatoes, using a cheese sauce of sharp orange cheddar and a scoop of pimento cheese.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.