Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rustic Mac & Cheese

I was hankering for some mac and cheese but the eggy casserole we usually make seemed too heavy for the hot weather. So, I was browsing Tastespotting and discovered something new.

The one thing about mac & cheese is that people are always trying to add breadcrumb topping to give it a little crunch. But it isn't supposed to be crunchy! It should be velvety creamy pasta in the end. The other thing is that everyone wants to add several cheeses. But, do we really taste all those cheeses at once? Is it necessary?

This recipe called for Fontina. I was at the regular store and discovered the stuff to be a pricey $6 for 5 ounces. However, we were on a trip to Costco and discovered that 1 lb of Fontina was $6! What a savings. I had thinking maybe I should just substitute another cheese like white cheddar or mozzarella. After we tasted the fontina, we thought it tasted just like cheddar with a slight hint of next time...

At the store I chose Campanelle shaped pasta. It is like a little flat piece of past rolled into a flower/cone shape (they are translated as Bells). We liked them because they were easy to fork and had that night ribbed texture on the side.

I received these rustic Italian caserolle dishes for my birthday a couple of years ago and have always thought they would be fun to use for something like this. I finally had my chance, the recipe called for a 9x13 pan but this was far more fun.

Oh and the Mac & Cheese? It was delicious! Creamy and velvety with a subtle hint of cheese flavor and light enough for an 80-degree day.

Rustic Mac & Cheese adapted from "The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook"

8 oz shredded Fontina
1 C heavy cream
1 lb pasta, any small shape
pinch nutmeg
4 T butter

Preheat oven to 350
1. Cook pasta in boiling water 2 minutes less than al dente according to package instructions.
2. While pasta is cooking, warm cream in microwave one minute and keep covered. Shred cheese. Grease baking dish (9x13).
3. Dice butter and place in a large bowl. Drain pasta and stir until coated with butter. Add cream and cheese. Stir until cheese starts to melt. Add nutmeg and salt to taste.
4. Pour pasta mixture into casserolle. Bake for 20 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.

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