Sunday, January 2, 2011

Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta

I am a big fan of macaroni and cheeses. Nothing is more comforting on a winter night. Nothing re-heats better. And nothing has quite as many variations as this staple. Here is a version using four different types of cheese. The gorgonzola makes all the difference, so do not omit.

Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta
Cook's Illustrated

4 slices white bread, torn into quarters
2 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 oz parmesan, grated (about 1/4 c)

1 lb penne
1 T olive oil
2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp flour
2 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp pepper
4 oz Italian fontina cheese, shredded 9about 1 1/3 c)
3 oz gorgonzola cheese (about 3/4 c)
1 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 c)
1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 c)

For the topping, process the bread and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 6 one-second pulses. Transfer to a bowl and toss with Parmesan. Set aside.

For the casserole, adjust the oven rack to the middle and heat to 500. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in 1 T salt and the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and toss with the oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the cream; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, add 1/4 tsp salt and the pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Combine the cheeses in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese.

Pour the hot cream mixture over the pasta and cover immediately with foil or a large plate. Let stand for 3 minutes. Uncover the bowl and stir with a rubber spatula, scraping the cheese from the bottom of the bowl, until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Transfer the pasta to a 9x13" baking dish and sprinkle with the bread-crumb topping. Bake until the topping is golden brown, 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

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