I said it was good… I didn’t say it was healthy

Remember when I did that blogging thing for awhile?

I’m bringing it back… and in most cases it will be in very food-centric ways. Let’s face it, I’ve got some TIME on my hands at the moment. One can only waste so many hours playing Candy Crush (Yeah, I’m outta lives. Send me one?)

Last night I made what is arguably one of my favorite weeknight meals. In all fairness, it began as an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. As with most recipes, I could not leave it alone and it has since been tweaked to my satisfaction.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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Sourdough bread, parmesan, provolone, pecorino romano and gorgonzola cheeses, penne, butter, cream, flour, salt & pepper.

You don’t have to use sourdough, any high quality bread will do… just don’t make the mistake of using store bought breadcrumbs, or you’ll be sorry. Don’t worry, they’re easy to make. Just take two slices of fresh bread, tear them into pieces and pulse 10-15 times in a food processor. It should look like this:

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Get about 4 quarts or so of water on the stove at this point if you didn’t do that already. You can heat that up while shredding the cheese, which is what you’ll be doing next. Don’t cheap out when you buy the cheese, and DO NOT try using anything like the Kraft pre-grated parmesan that comes in a can. You need to buy REAL parmesan and romano for this recipe. The couple extra bucks will be worth it (plus you’ll have a hunk of parmesan in your fridge and you’ll find all sorts of uses for that later).

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How much cheese? About this much. About 3/4 cup shredded parmesan, 3/4 cup shredded romano, 1 cup shredded provolone. You shoulda bought the gorgonzola already crumbled, this container is 4 oz.

All of you blue cheese haters out there can go home. Gorgonzola is pretty mild, and combined with the pungent flavors of the other cheeses, the final dish does not taste particularly “blue-cheesy.” The original recipe calls for fontina instead of provolone, but when the only fontina available at my local grocer is $11 for 4 ounces, I’m willing to substitute in provolone for a small fraction of that price. Take half of the parmesan and add it to your breadcrumbs, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (freshly ground, please) and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss it together with a fork.

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Dump the remaining parmesan and other cheeses into the biggest mixing bowl you’ve got and toss them together (seriously, this’ll get messy later if you don’t heed my warning). I like this ginormous one that also gets frequently used as the “popcorn” bowl.

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Stop worrying about the gorgonzola situation. I already told you, it’s not gonna taste like blue cheese.

Now is a good time to open one of these,

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Let’s ignore the fact that all of the bottles in my wine rack are clearly empty.

because a watched pot never boils!

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“T-T-T-Today, junior!”

and occasionally you have to deal with unexpected visitors…

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B-Bones offers his assistance.

While you’re drinking your wine (and waiting for that damned water to boil) melt about a tablespoon or so of butter over medium-low heat. Add about a tablespoon of flour and whisk until no lumps remain. Give it another 30 seconds or so to cook out that raw flour taste and then slowly add 2 cups of heavy cream while whisking.

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Can you multi-task? I hope so, especially with one hand occupied by a glass of wine. Hey look, the water is ready!

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Make sure you have a rolling boil going. Anything less can and will result in mushy pasta. Patience is a virtue! (but seriously, why can’t hurry the F$*! up be a virtue too?}

Throw in a pound of penne and cook until just shy of al-dente. Don’t choose another pasta. The tube shape and outside ridges are the key here. They help trap and hold onto all of the cheesy goodness. Hey! Don’t forget about that cream sauce you started. You turned up the heat to medium and have been whisking it every minute or so, right? Good. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for one more minute (it’ll have thickened up at this point). Add about a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk, remove from heat, cover and set aside.

When your pasta is ready, drain it but don’t shake off the excess water. You want it to be slightly wet. Dump the steaming hot pasta directly on top of the cheeses in your mixing bowl. Immediately pour the cream sauce on top of the pasta and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 3 minutes to get the cheeses melting.

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At this point, B-Bones had been fed and was no longer interested in dinner preparation photo bombs.

Once 3 minutes have elapsed, stir it up, making sure to scrape the bottom with a spatula to get all of the cheeses stirred in and melted.

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Dump that deliciousness into a 9×13 baking dish. Nope, you don’t need to spray it or butter it or anything, just pour that cheesy mess in there. Make sure you use the spatula to scrape any remaining cheese mess from the bowl.

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Remember the bread crumbs we made earlier? Nope, you don’t need to pre-cook or toast them. Just sprinkle them evenly over the top and press down lightly.

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Throw this into a 475 degree oven for about 13-15 minutes. You did preheat the oven, didn’t you? If not, you’ll just have extra time to work on that bottle of wine. Slice up some of that sourdough, cause it goes really well with the pasta!

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The bread anxiously awaits the arrival of the pasta… and worries about a possible altercation with B-Bones…

Here’s the finished product. Ta-Da!

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Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Try not to over-eat. Let me know how you liked it if you end up making this!

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