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One great soup, two great meals

I went to the gym the other day, for the first time since November. It was teeming with grunting, sweaty people still clinging to their New Year's resolutions. I had to wait for a machine, which always makes me half cranky, half guilty that I'm not willing to branch out from the comfort of the stationary bicycle. I watch the proud resolutionists bending their newly-formed abs in all sorts of improbable ways, shining with sweat, and wonder if I'd ever feel the need to do that for any reason whatsoever. I like cheese, and butter, and whipped cream. And, at the comfortable, softly padded age of 45, I'm pretty sure I've proved that I like those things a little more than my unlikely potential for sculpted abs. Oh well.

At this point, I exercise mostly to keep the gradual onset of midlife poundage at bay. And I guess I'm okay with that. I use the time on the bike to mentally plan my meals for the week. Or come up with new recipes. Or new product ideas. You might say that's counterproductive. I say it's my job. I'm a multitasker. And, quite frankly, at 6:00 at night, after a long day at work, I'm hungry.

And it's still winter, technically, despite the bizarre 50-degree days we're having here in Maine. So, the way I look at it, there's still time to indulge in cozy, oozy, carb-loaded meals.

Which is what I thought the other night when I came home and started heating the leftover tomato soup from the night before. What I really wanted, was pasta. And cheese. And bread. So I started to grate some cheddar cheese for my go to Mac & Cheese recipe (to serve alongside the tomato soup). When the pasta was cooked, and my roux made, I discovered that I only had about a cup of milk left in the fridge. But I was at the point of no return-both practically, and emotionally. There was going to be Mac & Cheese, even if I had to use the damn tomato soup to make it.

Wait. What? Now there's an idea.

Tomato Soup Mac & Cheese

 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups Classic Tomato Soup
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 12 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound small shell pasta (or whatever shape you like), cooked al dente
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Heat to your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" x 3" round cake pan (for gooey mac) or a 9" x 13" rectangular baking pan (for more crusty mac).
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is bubbling and hot. Add the chopped onion, and saute until soft, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, and stir to form a paste. Cook the roux for a minute or so. Try not to let the roux brown.
  4. Add the tomato soup and the milk to the saucepan, a little bit at a time, stirring well between each addition. If you don't have 3 cups of tomato soup, make it up with more milk. Cook the milk/soup mixture until bubbling and thickened slightly. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, and stir until melted.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan, and stir so that it is completely incorporated into the cheese sauce. Taste it, and season with salt and pepper if needed. Remember that the tomato soup has been seasoned already.
  6. Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking pan, and bake for 20--25 minutes, or until the pasta is bubbling all over and slightly browned on top.

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