I had the pleasure of hosting dinner the other night with a dear friend from high school. I hadn't seen my friend Heidi in years and since she's living the academic life in Boston (my buddy does research at Harvard which makes me awesome by proxy!), I decided to bake something rich and awesome.
That "something" was originally going to be crockpot beef stew, but as I was sitting on my ass in the living room on Monday night prior to Heidi's arrival, I just couldn't get excited about beef stew ... at that moment, it seemed like a Sunday thing, not something you serve in the middle of the week. (Do not ask me where I get my arbitrary rules.) So I found myself flipping through "Giada's Kitchen" and one of Rachael Ray's cookbooks (note: thank you to my "moms" - Gloria and Sharon for getting these for me) and I came across this Farmer's Pasta dish by Giada.
Oh dear God ... first and foremost - this dish demonstrates that there is no such thing as too much cheese. Secondly, this dish is making me long for the gym because I can just feel my ass getting bigger with every bite and thirdly - I was "meh" on the first day, slightly smitten on the second day's leftovers and ready to embark on a love affair with this dish on the third day when I warmed some up for breakfast/ brunch. It is an entree that just gets better after sitting in the fridge and letting the flavors meld.
The pain in the ass factor of this dish (beyond what it's doing to my waistline) is kind of high. I mean - I'm bound to grate a knuckle when I haul out the box grater, so there's always that danger factor. But I cannot stress the outcome - it is worth it. And I am only making this dish for special occasions ... but man ...
adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis
* Cooking spray, for greasing pan
* 2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
* 6 ounces pancetta, chopped (**you can use bacon ... I probably would the next time)
* 4 teaspoons minced garlic
* 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 4 cups whole milk
* 3 cups heavy whipping cream
* 8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
* 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
* 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 6 ounces provolone cheese, cubed
* 1 pound penne pasta
* 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup fresh coarse bread crumbs (**I used panko breadcrumbs ... not sure I'd do that again)
Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small bowl. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 3 teaspoons of garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes (you want to cook the raw flour taste off). Gradually whisk in the milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the Fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. (The pasta will continue cooking in the oven.) Drain pasta and add directly into the cheese. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Add the parsley, basil, provolone and pancetta and toss to coat. Season the pasta mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared dish.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the pasta mixture. Drizzle the top with extra-virgin olive oil and bake until the sauce bubbles and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.