Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta

Serves 4- 6 as main course, 6-8 as a side

Bread Crumb Topping
3 – 4 slices white sandwich bread with crusts, torn into quarters
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 ounce)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pasta and Cheese
4 ounces fontina cheese , shredded (about 1 cup)
3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese , crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 ounce)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 ounce)
1 pound penne
1 tablespoon table salt
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. For the topping: Pulse bread in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Transfer to small bowl; stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Set mixture aside.

2. For the pasta: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.

3. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Combine cheeses in large bowl; set aside. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water; stir to separate pasta. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk flour into butter until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in cream, increase heat to medium, and bring to boil, -stirring occasionally; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 minute to ensure that flour cooks. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; cover cream mixture to keep hot and set aside. When pasta is very al dente (when bitten into, pasta should be opaque and slightly underdone at very center), drain about 5 seconds, leaving pasta slightly wet. Add pasta to bowl with cheeses; immediately pour cream mixture over, then cover bowl with foil or large plate and let stand 3 minutes. Uncover bowl and stir with rubber spatula, scraping bottom of bowl, until cheeses are melted and mixture is thoroughly combined.

4. Transfer pasta to 13 by 9-inch baking dish, then sprinkle evenly with reserved bread crumbs, pressing down lightly. Bake until topping is golden brown, about 7 minutes. Serve immediately.”

Posted on
Monday, March 19th, 2007
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