July: Mac and Cheese Italian Style

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Buon giorno!

OK – Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. Usually the opposite is the case – can’t get enough of it – want it every day – can’t resist it when it is served. This one will get the attention of the all who love the cheesy oozy comforting goodness of this classic dish. Only this time – we’re giving it that Italian “edge” with MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE! If you can resist this one – Calabrisi does not end with an “I”!

 

We’re taking a slightly different turn with this though. It is not the orange colored mac and cheese we are so used to seeing from those… boxes. I make this with all kinds of short pastas – you choose! It is great with gnocchi as well. This recipe uses Fontina – the Italian melting cheese with the nutty flavor – that will take care of the OOZY. We add White Cheddar for the CHEESY. The Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago is there.. well, because why in the world wouldn’t we want it there??? The wine gives it that hint of loveliness, and we get touch of sweet from the butternut squash. You get the idea! We add one flavor level after another – until we hit the max… and then… we add (optional but incredible) seafood – lobster or shrimp. We have just cracked the ceiling of culinary heaven!

 

As if that is not enough – those who look for that something extra which makes this a truly distinctive and complex dish will finish with a “touch” of White Truffle Oil – oh YEAH!! Actually, I probably had you at Fontina – but gilding the lily is just, well, fun. So why not go for it. I think I can actually sense some palpitations here and with good reason. This is a VERY special dish!

MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Short pasta or gnocchi – cooked

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Chopped Pancetta – chops easier if partially frozen!

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Flour

3/4 C. White Wine or Dry Vermouth

2 C. Half and Half or heavy cream – warmed

1 C. Grated Fontina

1 C. Grated Sharp White Cheddar

1/2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

1/2 C. Sliced Black Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

2 C. Chopped Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 C. Sliced almonds

1 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs (not dried)

Drizzle of White Truffle Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

OPTIONAL BUT AMAZING: 1 lb. Cooked Lobster Meat or 1 lb. Cooked Shrimp

Instructions

Roast the Butternut Squash tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside.

1 Roasted Butternut Squash

Cook pancetta in oil and butter until just crisp.

Add onion and cook until tender.

2 Mac and Cheese

Add garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic!!

Add the flour and, stirring, cook the rawness out for a couple of minutes.

3 Mac and Cheese

Add the wine – cook a couple of minutes at medium high. It will thicken.

5 Mac and Cheese

Reduce heat a little and add the cream, stirring until it thickens again.

6 Mac and Cheese

Add the cheeses and melt in, stirring. Taste for seasoning. I like freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt.

7 Mac and Cheese

Add the olives, basil, squash and seafood, if using. Stir in.

8 Mac and Cheese

Toss the pasta with this sauce fully incorporating it. Use ALL of the sauce as you want it very “saucy and cheesy”.

Pour into a buttered baking pan or individual baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and sliced almonds.

9 Mac and Cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pop under the broiler  for a minute if it is not golden brown on top from baking.

Drizzle with the white truffle oil – just a bit as a little goes a LONG way with this pretty amazing addition! — or drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve your MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE as a main course or as a side at your next grilling event. Prepare for raves on this one!!! Take your bow and…

PARLA COME MANGI!

  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

 

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Comments

  1. Linda,
    What a wonderful twist on an all time favorite !