When I think of comfort foods, one of the first things that come to mind is mac & cheese. Gooey, warm, and of course, cheeeeesy delicious!
One of my favorite recipes is my 4-Cheese Penne Bake With Herb Bread Crumbs. Penne pasta, garlic and parmesan white sauce all tossed with loads of shredded cheese – Cheddar, Mozzarella, Jack and Parmesan. Then covered with some fresh, herby bread crumbs for a nice crunch.
Gooey, melted cheese bake – yum!
Photo from Dishing with Kathy Casey.
Mac & cheese is perfect to customize. You can add your favorite ingredients like bacon for a cheddar bacon mac. Or how about roasted red peppers, green onions, artichokes… rotisserie chicken would be good… sautéed mushrooms, sausage, green chilies – the possibilities are endless.
Or how about changing up the sauce part by mixing in some salsa or loads of garlic and curry? Nothing is off limits!
So get creative and bake up some comforting cheesey goodness! –Kathy
4-Cheese Penne Bake With Herb Bread Crumbs
* Four-, five- and six-cheese blends are available in most grocers’ dairy sections. If you wish to make your own grated cheese blend, try using a mixture of any of the following:, Jack, mozzarella, Gouda, Swiss, Havarti. I like to use Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese!
Generously serves 6 – 8.
Herb Bread Crumbs (recipe follows)
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 1/2 Tbsp. flour
4 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated high-quality Parmesan cheese
1 pound dry penne pasta
2 cups (8 oz. wt.) grated four-cheese blend*
2 cups (8 oz. wt.) grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Make the Herb Bread Crumbs and set aside.
In a large heavy-bottom sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir around for about 20 seconds — do not let garlic brown. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
While stirring vigorously with a whisk, add the milk. Whisk well. Bring to a simmer and whisk occasionally until sauce is thickened, about 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, sour cream and Parmesan cheese, and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook penne pasta per package directions until done. Drain well.
In a very large bowl mix together the pasta and sauce, then fold in the grated cheeses until well combined. Place mixture into a lightly buttered, 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan.
Sprinkle with Herb Bread Crumbs and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until pasta is heated through, sides are slightly bubbling and top is golden brown.
Herb Bread Crumbs
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
3 cups packed, 1-inch French bread chunks
4 Tbsp. butter
pinch salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dry basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dry thyme leaves
Place bread crumb ingredients in a food processor, and pulse processor on and off until the bread becomes chopped into a fine crumb and is well mixed with the other ingredients.
Bread crumbs should be refrigerated until used and can be kept frozen for up to 1 month.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios® – www.KathyCasey.com