6ozrigatoni pasta, or other pasta shape (about 2 cups)
For the cheese sauce:
3Tbspall purpose flour
5ozcheddar cheese, shredded, about 1 1/2 cups well packed
1 - 1 1/2cupscanned diced tomatoes, drained, reserving juice from can
1 - 2Tbspjuice from canned tomatoes
Additional shredded cheddar cheese
Dried breadcrumbs or Panko
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Boil a large pot of water for cooking pasta. Salt well. Cook pasta just until al dente. Drain and set aside until needed.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir, cooking, for about 1 minute. Add about half the milk and stir until smooth. Add remaining milk, along with the salt, chili powder and garlic powder. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Add shredded cheddar cheese and stir in. Let stand 1 minute, then return to it and stir until smooth.
Add cooked and drained pasta to the pot, a bit at a time, stirring in and adding only as much as needed to keep a nice and saucy pasta. Add 1 cup of drained canned diced tomatoes and stir in. Add addition tomatoes, if you feel like you want a bit more. Add 1 Tbsp of juice from the canned tomatoes and stir in. Taste and add a bit more juice from the tomatoes, if you like. Don't add too much juice, or you will thin out your cheese sauce too much. (*alternately, you can add a tiny bit of tomato paste to the sauce in place of the juice from the can of tomatoes, for a tomato taste, without worry of watering the sauce down). Taste and add additional salt and some freshly ground pepper, as needed.
Spoon into baking dish or individual baking dishes. Top with additional shredded cheese and/or dried breadcrumbs/Panko on top. Bake in preheated 350F oven for about 20 minutes.
You can use canned whole tomatoes instead of diced. Simply hand-crush the whole tomatoes and measure out. You probably don't need to add additional juice from the can, as the whole tomatoes have more juice in them already.You can use fresh tomatoes here as well. Simply dice and measure out. You will need to return the pot to the heat though, to cook over low heat until the tomatoes soften.You can enjoy this as a stove-top dish, if you like and skip the baking. Simply return the pot to the heat and warm through a bit before serving right from the pot.Be sure to read the Ingredient and Cook's Notes above the Recipe Card for more tips on making this recipe.