I am a fan of macaroni and cheese. In fact, I have an entire section in my recipe library dedicated solely to this casserole. And while I can enjoy a panko-crusted bowl of mac-n-cheese featuring Gruyere and Blue Cheese just like the next person, I most enjoy versions made with grated cheddar and a few vegetables.
I read about this in a recent issue of Edible Austin magazine. I loved the tomato-based, stew-like idea behind this macaroni, but the original version called for a lot of beef in it. I wanted to make a version without meat. The end result is more brothy than cheesy, and that's just fine by me.
Based on a recipe from Edible Austin
1 12-oz package elbow macaroni
3 T garlic, minced
3 T shallots, minced
1 1/2 T cumin seeds
3 T chili powder
1 1/2 quart stock, plus more as needed
2 T tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 c peas, cooked
2 c cheddar cheese, grated
1 c tomato, diced
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the macaroni and toast until light brown, not more than 1 minute.
Add garlic, shallots, cumin and chili powder and cook 1 minute, being careful not to burn.
Add stock and paste and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer and let the pasta cook through -- don't be hasty with this step or the starch will cook out of the pasta. If it starts to dry out, add more stock -- you want to end up with a sauce.
When noodles are almost cooked, add salt and pepper and peas. Stir. Stir in cheese just until it melts Garnish with chopped tomato, cilantro and hot sauce or crushed peppers, if using.
Note: This version was served straight from the stockpot. You could also consider baking it off by pouring all contents into a 9x12" casserole, topping with bread crumbs (or panko), and baking at 350 for 20 minutes or so.