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Macaroni and Cheese with Peppers

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
  • 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: ground coriander seed, salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 3/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese with hot peppers, coarsely grated
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup fine, fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Yield: 8 to 10 servings. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a large, shallow baking dish (at least 4 quarts). Cook the onion and bell pepper in the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until they are softened. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in the milk; heat the mixture to a boil, stirring, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cumin, coriander seed and 1/2 teaspoon salt; remove from heat. Cook macaroni in a kettle of boiling salted water until it is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and transfer it to a large bowl. Add the sauce, tomatoes, Monterey Jack and salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. For the topping, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs, cornmeal and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is golden. Stir in cilantro. Sprinkle the topping over macaroni mixture. Bake the macaroni and cheese until hot, bubbly and slightly browned at the edges, about 1 hour.

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