Four-Cheese Pasta

Mac and Cheese for grown-ups.

Serves 6 to 8.

1½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound medium-size shaped pasta, such as penne
1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
¾ cup crumbled dolce gorgonzola cheese
½ cup grated Romano cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. To prepare the topping: Place the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, mix to combine, and set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until it is just barely al dente (the innermost center is still dark and looks slightly raw). Transfer the pasta to a colander and drain for about 5 seconds, leaving it slightly wet.

4. Place the fontina, gorgonzola, Romano, and Parmesan cheeses, along with the salt and pepper, in a large mixing bowl. Stir well and set aside.

5. Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking until smooth, about 30 seconds. Then gradually add the cream and cook until it just comes to a boil. Add the pasta to the bowl of cheeses and then add the cream sauce. Cover the bowl with a plate and let sit for 3 minutes. Then stir well, being careful to mix in the cheeses from the bottom, and transfer to a 9 x 12-inch glass, aluminum, or ceramic pan. (You can cover and refrigerate the dish up to 2 days before cooking.)

6. Sprinkle the bread-crumb topping over the pasta, pressing it down lightly. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato-Basil: When you add the cream, stir in one 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained. Just prior to transferring the pasta to the pan, stir in ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves.
Prosciutto-Pea: Omit the salt from the cheese mixture. When you add the cream, add 4 ounces chopped prosciutto. Just prior to transferring the pasta to the pan stir in 1 cup frozen peas.

From The $50 Dinner Party: 26 Dinner Parties That Won’t Break Your Bank, Your Back, or Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, 1998)