Baked Four-Cheese Pasta With Tomatoes and Basil

By Galley Wench on June 19, 2008

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Ingredients

    Bread Crumb Topping

    1. 12 slices white bread, with crusts torn into quarters
    2. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ( 1/2 ounce)
    3. 1/4 teaspoon table salt
    4. 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

    Pasta and Cheese Sauce

    1. 4 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded ( about 1 cup)
    2. 3 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled ( about 3/4 cup)
    3. 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese ( 1 ounce)
    4. 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ( 1/2 ounce)
    5. 1 lb penne pasta
    6. 1 tablespoon table salt
    7. 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
    8. 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
    9. 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    10. 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    11. 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
    12. 1/4 teaspoon table salt
    13. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaf

Directions

  1. For the topping:.
  2. Pulse bread in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups).
  3. Transfer to small bowl; stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
  4. Set mixture aside.
  5. For the pasta:.
  6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees.
  7. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot.
  8. Combine cheeses in large bowl; set aside.
  9. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water; stir to separate pasta.
  10. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk flour into butter until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.
  11. Gradually whisk in cream, add tomatoes, and increase heat to medium, and bring to boil, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 minute to ensure that flour cooks.
  12. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; cover cream mixture to keep hot and set aside.
  13. When pasta is very al dente (when bitten into, pasta should be opaque and slightly underdone at very center), drain about 5 seconds, leaving pasta slightly wet.
  14. Add pasta to bowl with cheeses; immediately pour cream mixture over, then cover bowl with foil or large plate and let stand 3 minutes.
  15. Uncover bowl and stir with rubber spatula, scraping bottom of bowl, until cheeses are melted and mixture is thoroughly combined. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil.
  16. Transfer pasta to 13 by 9-inch baking dish, then sprinkle evenly with reserved bread crumbs, pressing down lightly.
  17. Bake until topping is golden brown, about 7 minutes.
  18. Serve immediately.