In the realm of comfort food, I believe that more is more. The entire point of comfort food is to be soothed and coddled by rich, nostalgic flavors. Comfort food should be everything you love, and nothing less.
So I’ve dreamed up a brilliant way to say yes to two of your favorites at once: pizza mac and cheese.
Before you make a face, let me explain. This isn’t a lowbrow food mash-up for the sake of novelty. I started with a recipe borrowed from Progresso for the “ultimate mac and cheese," a classic and elegant baked pasta dish with a silky béchamel sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.
Then, I culled the best parts from a slice of pizza: the earthy trifecta of garlic-oregano-basil; the gentle heat of red pepper flakes; melted mozzarella; and saucy tomatoes. I used dried spices, fresh garlic, and excellent fresh mozzarella and to mimic the tomato sauce, I stirred chopped sun-dried tomatoes into my béchamel. Salty, acidic, sweet.
Bizarrely enough, it really does taste like pizza. The oregano and sun-dried tomatoes are crucial in mimicking the pizza flavor, and the crunchy breadcrumb topping stands in for the crust.
Now, let’s talk about pepperoni. To some, a pizza isn’t complete without it. You can add a handful of chopped pepperoni to your pasta if you feel that way. Or leave it out if you like. Or you can go rogue and add your favorite pizza topping. Bacon! Kale! Olives! Sausage! Have at it. If it works on pizza, (I think) it will work here.
This is the kind of meal that will quickly gain a permanent place on your roster—the sort of dinner that you'll make for your kids, and that they'll request for years and years, every time they come home from college and far-flung places.
Adapted loosely from Progesso
5 cups (16 ounces) dried pasta
1/2 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups milk, warmed slightly
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded Provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
12 slices pepperoni, diced (optional)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Photos by Posie Harwood