Make Ahead

Savory Pear Mac and Cheese

September 15, 2011
2 Ratings
  • Serves 3-4
Author Notes

I developed this recipe for a pot luck as a creative take on a classic comfort food. I like the sweet and savory combination of ingredients that make this dish rich, nutty and herby all at once.

A dense flavorful pear such as anjou or bartlett works best. Make sure to select a firmer fruit so that it holds up to cooking. Fresh thyme is a key ingredient that gives the dish flavor and prevents it from seeming too rich. In a pinch, 1 tsp. dried thyme may be substituted but the dish will lack brightness of flavor. Alternatively, try another pungent fresh herb such as rosemary or sage.

I find that cooking the fruit in a non-stick pan prevents sticking and requires less butter. —academicchef

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces dry pasta (elbows, gemelli or cavatappi)
  • 2 -3 pears diced
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (loosely packed)
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter (divided)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (finely chopped) - can substitute with course breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cook pasta according to instructions on package, using the lesser of the range of minutes given so that it will stay firm. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Set aside.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions. Coat the onions in butter and cook a few minutes until wilted down. Lower the heat the low and cook until onions are caramelized.
  3. Push the onions to the outer edges of the pan and add the diced pears to the center. Raise the heat to medium and saute the pears, moving them around until all sides are browned and the fruit is slightly softened. If the pears start to stick to the pan add up to a tablespoon more of butter. Add the thyme and nutmeg. Stir together all ingredients in the pan, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan (I use the pasta pot from earlier) melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture bubbles and turns golden. Pour in the milk in a steady slow stream whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming. Once all the milk has been added, cook the sauce for a few minutes while whisking until it thickens. Turn off the heat and add the gruyere, stirring until it melts evenly into the sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and the pear-onion mixture to the sauce. Mix evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add gorgonzola and mix gently to prevent it from melting into the sauce.
  6. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with chopped walnuts. Bake for 30-45 minutes until bubbly and browned on top.
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