In this 'mac and cheese', fontina lends a creamy note but it manages to crisp around the edges and brown nicely on the top. The fresh herbs offer a flavorful brightness to each bite that you don't really expect, but as soon as you try it, you'll wonder why you haven't loaded your mac and cheese with fresh herbs before. This would be a great side dish with roasted chicken or turkey. This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten's 'Baked Fontina' recipe which I highly recommend. —Mary Catherine Tee
all purpose flour
half and half
fresh rosemary, finely chopped
fresh thyme, finely chopped
cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Panko breadcrumbs and melted butter to top (optional)
In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until slightly firm just on the less done side of al dente. I suggest cooking 1-2 minutes less than the “al dente” instructions on the box.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Slowly whisk in the flour until a roux, or paste forms. Continue whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes, or until the paste is slightly darkened and nutty smelling. Pour in half the milk, continuing to whisk constantly. Once the milk and roux are well incorporated, add the remainder of the milk, continuing to whisk. Then, add the half and half and you guessed it, whisk some more. Stir in rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs together.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the sauce blip away, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.
Take about ½ cup of the sauce and slowly pour into the bowl with the beaten eggs, whisking constantly so the egg does not cook through. Once the two are incorporated, stir egg mixture into sauce, stirring until smooth. Add in the cheese and stir to melt. Once melted, add the salt and white pepper.
Stir in the drained macaroni and stir well to coat the penne with the sauce.
In a buttered casserole dish, pour in the sauced pasta. Top with parmesan and Panko-butter (if using). Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are browned and the center set.
I’m an old soul. My favorite Saturday morning activity is watching birds on the feeder while drinking strong, black coffee out of my favorite hand-thrown mug. My favorite place to kill time is in antique stores. The less organized the better. I like full-bodied red wines and bitter IPAs. I live for feeling the warmth of sunshine and hearing the stillness of freshly fallen snow. I can thank my stint in Alaska for that. I have salt water in my veins, having grown up in Eastern NC, and (shhh…don’t tell any of my Mainer friends this about me) I prefer blue crab over lobster.