Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fontina Macaroni & Cheese

As luck would have it, right after sharing my previous post about how I'm trying to be really good about working out and getting into better shape, which includes making sure I'm eating well, I found myself in need of some serious comfort food and indulged a bit after deciding to make a Fontina Macaroni & Cheese recipe I had sitting on my recipes-to-try list.

Mac & cheese is probably my most favorite food of all time, as it combines my love of pasta with my love of cheese.  It is the absolute perfect comfort food, in my opinion.  I currently have 12 different mac & cheese inspired recipes sitting on my Pinterest recipes board, not to mention others that are saved on my computer and in my recipe binder at home, and the only thing that has kept me from trying all of them already is the fact that quality cheese is expensive, so it takes a lot of willpower to overcome my more frugal tendencies and actually purchase cheeses that cost more than $4/lb -- the 1/2 lb block of Fontina for this recipe was just over $5.

Overall I really enjoyed this dish.  The recipe is super easy to make!  You simply cook 1lb of pasta to just under al dente, toss it with 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter until melted, and then stir in 1 cup of heated heavy cream and 8oz of shredded Fontina cheese (the heat from the warm pasta & heavy cream will quickly melt all of the cheese).  Next you season it to taste with salt and a pinch of ground nutmeg before adding it to a 2-3 quart casserole dish.  For the topping, you melt 1 tablespoon of butter and then mix into it 1/3 cup of panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, and then sprinkle the crumb coating over the pasta.

The recipe calls for then baking the dish for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, just until the pasta is bubbly and the topping begins to brown.  The dish certainly comes out tasty when following these baking instructions, however if you want a creamier dish, I would recommend not baking it for this time, but rather just place it under the broiler for a little bit to brown the topping, as the creaminess that first exists before placing the casserole in the oven is lost a bit after the baking time.

I think this recipe would also serve as a good base for experimenting with different seasonings and other mix-in ingredients, such as chicken, shrimp, bacon, or vegetables.  And of course you can also always change up the type of pasta you use -- I usually prefer to use whole wheat pastas, but for this recipe decided to go with a fun corkscrew shape from the pasta stockpile my husband and I had amassed last summer when we were able to score boxes of it for free at the store when combining an awesome $1 off coupon with a BOGO sale.

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