RECIPE

Mac and Cheese with Winter Pesto

This mac ‘n cheese combines parsley, arugula, basil and walnuts for a pesto to blend with double cheeses and pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound orecchiette (little ears) or other small pasta shape

For the pesto:

  • 1 cup each, loosely packed: parsley (grassy), arugula (spicy), basil (sweet)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, pasted or minced
  • About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 rounded tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1/2 pound Italian Fontina cheese, such as Fontina Val d’Aosta, grated, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

In large pot of salted, boiling water, dump the pasta and undercook by 2 minutes. Drain and reserve.


Pulse-grind the ingredients for the pesto sauce in a food processor or hand grind them in a large mortar and pestle.


Melt the butter in a saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg; simmer at a low bubble and thicken to coat the back of a spoon. Adjust the seasonings, to taste. Stir in the Fontina and melt, reserving a handful to top the casserole.


Combine the pesto, white sauce and pasta in a large mixing bowl. Adjust the seasonings and place in a casserole dish. Top with the remaining Fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses and bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and bubbly on top.

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Rachael Ray