Friday, 29 April 2016

Day 45: April 29, 2015 - Simple Tasty Baked Macaroni with Tomatoes and Celery - Νόστιμα Ψητό Μακαρονάκια με Ντομάτα και Σέλινο

My mother used to make baked macaroni.  It was cheesy and tomato-y and served every other week while we were growing up. Now, if you say "baked macaroni", some people will think of the Kraft Dinner, and others will think of some sort of cheesy macaroni like at a traditional diner.  Well, today, we are going to make baked macaroni without cheese.  In fact, we are making baked macaroni without a lot of things -- there are only 5 ingredients in the recipe!  Although, if you don't count the water, it is really only four ingredients.  For a fast and easy way to make lunch or dinner, and one that is good reheated, too, this is a keeper!

For this recipe, you will need the following:

2 cups macaroni
2 cups water
2 cups tomatoes, peeled whole or crushed
2 stalks celery, chopped
A bit of oil, as needed

First, chop the celery into pieces.  You want pieces that get lost in the flavours of the tomato sauce, so they should be small.  We make sure to peel the celery to remove any strings, and that will make it easier to cut the small pieces.  Put the chopped celery in a baking dish.

Now, add the tomatoes.  We used canned San Marzano tomatoes.  This is a personal preference.  Some folks will use fresh, whole tomatoes that have been blanched, peeled, and cut.  Right now is not tomato season, so we opted for canned.  We left the tomatoes whole in the dish believing they will dissolve as they cook int he water.  It is probably better to chop them a little and make smaller pieces.  I liked the big chunks of tomato in the final dish, Husband preferred to pick those out of the macaroni.  Either way, the flavour of the tomato is outstanding.

Add one cup of the water and mix the celery, tomato, and water in  the baking dish.  Ad, pour a bit of oil on top so it floats and makes the whole dish look greasy.  Now, bake this.  Yes, put it in the oven at 425 F for 25 minutes.  Bake this until it is fully hot.  You will see the tomatoes are starting to cook.  But, at the 25 minute mark, take the dish out of the oven.  Mmmm, can you smell the tomatoes?

Pour the macaroni into the baking dish.  We chose to use elbow macaroni, but any short noodle will do.  Elbows have a way of making everyone happy, and are versatile for noodles.  Make sure that you keep to a small noodle, though, not the big or long ones.

Now, bake the macaroni for about 45 minutes at 425º F (about 220º C), or long enough for the water to evaporate and the macaroni to cook fully.  If you like your noodles more al dente, then you may want use a little less water, or bake a little less time.  You will want to try both to see what works for your specific oven.  We cooked for 45 minutes and the macaroni was soft without being gummy.  The end result was a rich, soft, and flavourful pasta dish with chunks of tomatoes and a little crispiness on top.  Enjoy!

A photo from tonight's Good Friday Epitafio (April 29, 2016) from our home church 
in Toronto, Canada.

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