When I think of comfort foods, one of the first things that come to mind is mac & cheese. Gooey, warm, and of course, cheesy – this d’lish dish is always a winner!
One of my favorite recipes is a 4 Cheese Penne Bake – penne pasta, garlic and parmesan white sauce – tossed with loads of shredded cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, jack and parmesan. Cover the whole thing 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 try adding in things like chopped roasted red peppers, green onions, artichokes, smoked chicken, sautéed mushrooms, sausage, green chilies….. the list is endless!
Or how about changing up the sauce by mixing in some salsa or chipotle for a kick of heat? Nothing is off limits!
So get creative and bake up some cheesy goodness! -Kathy
4 Cheese Penne Bake With Herb Bread Crumbs
Generously serves 6 – 8.
Herb Bread Crumbs (recipe follows)
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
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
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.
*For an even richer macaroni and cheese substitute half & half for the milk.
**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.
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®.