Baked pasta dishes are the ultimate comfort food. Melted cheese, crispy breadcrumb topping, the way it bubbles when it’s done. There’s something very soothing about assembling a dish like this and sliding it into the oven, knowing that all you have to do is pop open a bottle of wine and wait until it’s done. This cheesy pasta starts out like any other: with cheese!
For this pasta, I used a combination of gruyere, gorgonzola, and parmesan cheeses. Yep, there’s gorgonzola in there, but it’s hiding right now. Also, I was too lazy to photograph it. The wine was just for good measure, in case the dish didn’t turn out and I needed to comfort myself. (It did turn out though!)
Start by boiling the pasta in heavily salted water. Every layer should be flavored, including the pasta. Cook until just al dente, drain and toss with a little olive oil to prevent from sticking. Grate cheeses and reserve.
Then begin making your roux. A roux is simply a combination of some type of fat (butter/oil) and flour, that is used to thicken sauces or soups. Cook it over medium heat until the flour has cooked and the butter is completely melted. Then add hot milk and whisk vigorously to dissolve any lumps. Once milk has thickened slightly, remove from heat and fold in your cheeses. Check for seasonings and season well with salt and pepper.
Once the cheeses have melted, fold in your pasta, then transfer to a greased baking pan (I used an 8X8) or, to be extra fancy, use individual ramekins. Top with seasoned breadcrumbs (2 slices bread, bunch of chopped parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper), a few pads of butter, and a drizzle of olive oil.
3 cups penne rigate pasta
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup gruyere cheese (grated)
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese (grated or crumbled)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
2 cups 2% milk
1-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup shredded gruyere
1/4 cup shredded gorgonzola
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 slices white bread
handful fresh parsley (dry works too, about a teaspoon)
pinch of salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 stick butter (dotted on top)
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt, (about a tablespoon or more). Cook pasta until just al dente (about 10-12 minutes). Drain and toss with a little olive oil. Reserve. Grate 3/4 cup gruyere cheese and 1/2 cup gorgonzola. Set aside. In a large pot, cook flour and butter together over medium heat for a couple minutes, then add hot milk. Whisk vigorously to dissolve any lumps. Cook for a couple minutes, until milk has begun to thicken. Remove from heat. Then fold in gruyere, gorgonzola, and grated parmesan cheeses. Once cheeses have melted, season with a teaspoon or teaspoon and a half of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Fold pasta into the sauce and mix well. Then transfer to a greased baking dish. Top with more grated cheeses (see toppings above), and fresh breadcrumbs. Then dot evenly with butter and bake in the oven until top is golden brown and pasta is slightly bubbling. Enjoy with a glass bottle of wine!