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Baked Penne with Garrotxa, Serrano, and Sundried Tomatoes

As a certified junk food aficionado, I’ll come right out and say it: there are many days when there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to the salty, carby creaminess of mac and cheese straight from the box.

(Make mine Annie’s in bunny shapes, please!)

And as someone who lives to feed and entertain others, I’ll come right out and say this: there are many moments in life when serving mac and cheese straight from the box just isn’t acceptable.

For those times when you need both comfort and classiness, you now have a foolproof resource: Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord.

Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com

Yes, it’s a cookbook solely devoted to the cheesy casserole we all know and love, but it’s not simply a paean to the basic elbows-and-cheddar dish in different permutations.

Melt goes beyond béchamel and breadcrumbs to showcase a roster of artisan cheeses, pastas, and other quality ingredients to create macaroni and cheese meals in combinations you’ve never dreamed of, but now can’t imagine living without.

You might ask, “What the heck are smoked Idiazabal mason-jar potpies with lamb and tomato sauce?” They’re rich and hearty yet elegantly individual servings that anyone who loves to serve lasagna at a dinner party should definitely try on for size.

Paneer, pineapple, and cucumber pasta salad is what you should—no, must—make for your next summer potluck, a revolutionary choice to overthrow the years-long oppression of watermelon and feta salad.

You can even round out your meal with sweet rice pudding-esque orzo with ricotta and poached stone fruit. (Heck, you can have that for breakfast; I know I would.)

If you’re having difficulty finding specialty cheeses like Etorki, Brigante, or Leonora goat cheese at your local market, a comprehensive list of mail-order cheese (and pasta) resources is included at the close of the book.

For those of you not inclined to order cheese over the internet and like to see what your local cheesemonger has on hand, each recipe includes alternative cheese suggestions for use in each dish, as well as wine pairings and recommendations for snacks and ingredients that can accompany the inevitable extra bits of cheese you’ve got left over: apple compote, roasted peaches, English snap peas, and more.

Baked Penne with Garrotxa, Serrano ham, and sundried tomatoes, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com
Photo: Matt Armendariz, Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

Since most of my comfort food cravings are satisfied with savory, umami-rich meals, I feel like Melt‘s recipe for baked penne with Garrotxa, Serrano ham, and sundried tomatoes (below) speaks to my salty soul.

Garrotxa, a creamy but nutty Spanish goat cheese, is one of those wedges I’ll happily eat on its own (ok, with wine too) as dinner.

But when paired with intensely flavored dried tomatoes and shreds of aged Spanish ham, it becomes even more enticing.

Baked Penne with Garrotxa, Serrano ham, and sundried tomatoes, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com

Baked Penne with Garrotxa, Serrano Ham, and Sundried Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Baked penne with Garrotxa gives mac and cheese a luxe international makeover with in this recipe from Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces; 227 grams) penne
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter + more for greasing the casserole dish
  • 1 pound (16 ounces; 454 grams) Garrotxa cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 113 grams) crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1/3 pound (6 ounces; 168 grams) Serrano ham, sliced and roughly torn into shreds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bring a 4-quart pot filled with water to a boil. Add the salt to the boiling water, then stir in the pasta.
  2. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and reserve.
  3. Butter an 8-inch square or other approximately 2-qt. casserole dish.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon butter, cheese, milk, and crème fraîche in a large, high-sided sauté pan or deep skillet over medium-low heat.
  5. Cook, stirring, until the cheese is mostly melted into the creamy sauce.
  6. Remove from the heat before the cheese melts completely to keep the sauce from breaking.
  7. Stir in the pepper.
  8. Toss the reserved pasta with the sundried tomatoes and ham, then stir in the sauce.
  9. Pour the pasta into the prepared casserole dish and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes

Alternative cheeses: Ibores, Twig Farm Goat Tomme, Bardwell Farm's Equinox

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 185Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 331mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 11g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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42 Comments

  1. This book sounds perfect! I think my favorite cheese definitely rotates, but right now it is probably goat cheese . . . on everything.

  2. Holy moly! I new this in my life and I need that cookbook! I am kind of a Mac and Cheese addict. My favorite way to enjoy cheese is with wine in a triscuit as an evening snack ;) but Mac and Cheese is a close second for sure!

  3. I just liked you on your Facebook page. I was number 1371. I would love to be entered for the recipe book contest please. I don’t have any kind of e device other than my PC, so I don’t tweet or do any of the other things, just FB and I use a Kindle app. on my PC.

    Thank you for the chance.

    Cynthia

  4. Not sure if it is because I am Greek, but my favorite cheese is definitely feta. I love to eat it with everything, even watermelon!

  5. My favorite cheese is Brie, and I will eat it IN ANY FORM. One time, at a wedding in South Carolina, they served baked Brie, and you can bet it was my favorite dish there. Another time, at the Wanderlust Festival up in VT, I scored tickets to Winederlust, where there was a whipped Brie spread.

    I totally hogged the whipped Brie spread, though I was also kind enough to extol its virtues to everyone else there.

    Then, this past August, Michael and I spent a week in Italy, where all the hotels were good enough to serve Brie with breakfast!

    Bless those hotels.

  6. I like cheese straight-up, like a wonderful cheese mix tray with deli meats & misc fruit, dips, pickles, crackers, etc.

  7. I love pairing assorted dessert wines with a plate of various cheeses. Lots of combinations are possible and it’s a nice change from chocolate cake or other sweets. This also gives me an excuse to drink tawny port and Hungarian tokaji (oddly enough, I enjoy 4 puttonyos better than 5 or 6). Aged gouda, savarin, blue cheese, and others are among my preferred types to do this with. Dates and honey can be incorporated for a touch of sweetness. Everyday cheese fare for me: grated kasseri over spaghetti, havarti in grilled cheese sandwich, and a small piece of creamy gouda for a snack.

  8. Seriously – is there a bad way to eat cheese? I think not! My favorites are sharp cheddar, pepper jack and blue cheese because I love those intense flavors! I can eat sharp cheddar & pepper jack cheese by the slice or in a sandwich. Blue cheese is best in a salad :)

  9. Applewood smoked Gouda on top of crackers with a locally-made cranberry/raspberry preserve spread. Delish.

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