This is a very non-traditional recipe for Macaroni and Cheese made with creamy Brie, fresh tomatoes, spinach, black olives and a crusty Garlic Bread topping. This is a bit fancier than the childhood classic. And definitely not your run-of-the-mill mac ‘n’ cheese!
I considered combining the mild-mannered Brie with a sharper cheese but didn’t want to over power it or change the consistency. Instead, I tossed in an array of colorful goodies to brighten up the flavor: fresh, chopped tomatoes, meaty black olives and chopped spinach. I used soft, fresh Italian bread cubes tossed with garlic and butter to make the crust; a component that really sets it apart and makes it special.
This is the first time I’ve had a macaroni and cheese taste better the next day, I usually like them less the second time around. I loved this just as much reheated, if not more. The flavors developed further and it was almost as creamy as if it had just came out of the oven.
The golden croutons are crispy on the outside with a tender interior. The contrast between them and the soft, creamy pasta is totally delectable. The pungent bite of the garlic is a lovely complement to the brie. This is a complete comfort meal that you will love just as much as my family. You can serve it as a main dish with a salad or as a side dish where it will steal all the glory.
This can also be made without the tomatoes, olives and spinach: increase the pasta to 8 ounces.
Brie Macaroni and Cheese with a Garlic Bread Crust
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
6 cloves Garlic, minced
5 tablespoons Butter, divided
3 heaping cups of Cubed, Fresh Italian Bread, 1/2-3/4 inch
1 tablespoon Parsley, fresh, chopped
6 ounces Penne Pasta (like Barila whole-grain)
1 cup Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 cup Tomato, diced
1 cup Olives, diced
1/2 teaspoon Sea or Kosher Salt
1/8 teaspoon Fresh Black Pepper
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Thyme
2 cups Whole Milk
8 ounces Brie, rind removed, cubed (like Ile De France)
1. In a large skillet over medium-low heat the olive oil, add garlic and saute until fragrant, add 2 tablespoons butter and melt, turn off heat and add bread and parsley, tossing well to coat the bread cubes. Remove from heat and set pan aside.
2. Cook penne to al dente according to package directions in plenty of salted water, also adding the spinach in. To a large mixing bowl add the tomatoes and olives. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 8×8-inch deep sided casserole or baking dish. Toss drained penne and spinach with the tomatoes and olives, season with salt and pepper. Pour into casserole pan.
3. In a medium saucepan melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat, whisk in flour and thyme, cook for three to four minutes whisking, then slowly whisk in milk and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to low and slowly add in Brie cubes whisking over low heat. When Brie is melted remove from heat and pour over pasta. Evenly spread the bread cubes over top making sure to get every bit of garlic and parsley from the pan.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 400, turn down heat to 375 and bake for 10 more minutes until bubbly.
5. Let set for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with Parmesan cheese.