This macaroni homey casserole was developed by Pierre Franey in 1991 for the 60-Minute Gourmet column. It is hearty sustenance that evokes memories of childhood and sweater weather. Its preparation is simple, but its flavors veer elegant. Sauté onions, celery, green peppers and garlic. Add the meat, then oregano, basil and tomatoes. Whisk together a quick Cheddar cheese bechamel that’s seasoned with cayenne and nutmeg then pour it on top. At the last minute, sprinkle a little Parmesan on top and slide it under a broiler to brown. Serve with crisp green salad and a hunk of French bread. Comfort food at its finest.
Preparation of Macaroni:
Step 1. Bring the water with salt to a boil. Add the macaroni; stir and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Step 2. In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onions, celery, green pepper and garlic. Cook, stirring, until wilted. Add the meat, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the meat loses its red color. Add the oregano, basil and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the cooked macaroni. Blend well and set aside. Keep warm.
Step 3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the flour with a wire whisk until well-blended. Add the milk, stirring rapidly, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
Step 4. Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the Cheddar cheese, cayenne, nutmeg, and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese melts.
Step 5. Preheat broiler.
Step 6. Spoon the macaroni mixture into a baking dish measuring 7 by 10 by 2 1/2 inches. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the macaroni mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and place under the broiler (about 4 to 5 inches from the heat source) until it is hot, bubbling and lightly browned.
Step 7. Enjoy!