Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta


This recipe is from the Cook’s Illustrated, Best Cover and Bake Recipe book.   This is the same book with the Mac and Cheese masterpiece.    I tried it out on Sunday with the tomato and basil variation.   Check out the bottom of the recipe for that + another variation with proscuitto and peas.   It’s pretty good and easy to make.   The white sandwich bread topping with a little butter is a great accent.    One note, for the sauce… I had to double check the 2 teaspoons thing to see if it was a typo.   In a stick of butter, it’s only 2/3 of a tablespoon.   Enjoy!    


4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ ounce parmesan cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)

1 pound penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces Italian fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cups)
3 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
½ ounce parmesan cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)

1. For the Topping: Process the bread and butter in a food processor fitted with the steel blade until coarsely ground, about six 1-second pulses. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the Parmesan; set aside.

2. For the Pasta: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the pasta, return in to the pot, and toss with the oil; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the 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 the heat, add ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cover to keep warm.

4. Combine the cheeses in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta to the cheeses. 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 9 by 13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) and sprinkle with the bread-crumb topping. Bake until the topping is golden brown 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Four-Cheese Pasta with Tomatoes and Basil
Follow the recipe for Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta, adding one (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, to the pasta along with the cream in step 4. Add ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves to the pasta just before transferring to the baking dish.

Baked Four-Cheese Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas
Follow the recipe for Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta, omitting the salt from the cream mixture in step 3, and adding 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped, and 1 cup frozen peas to the pasta along with the cream in step 4.


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