Creamy, smooth and lightly touched with the flavor of garlic, Baked Two-Cheese Rigatoni is a brilliant tummy-warming and delicious weekday supper idea.
Added to the stack of magazines that I’m having trouble letting go of is the November issue of Country Living. I only had the opportunity to make the Pumpkin Pie with Oat-Pecan Crust from it in November, which means there are still lots of tabs sticking out the top. Pies, sides, appetizers and comfort food. Glorious comfort food.
This take on mac and cheese has been niggling the back of my brain for weeks now, even more so as our weather, warm though it is, moves into Pooh Bear’s blustery mode and the rain’s on its way again. I believe that rain and wind are a perfect combination reason for making comfort food (if one is even needed).
I am a fan of Cheddar cheese. Heck, I can’t think of a cheese I’m not fond off (yes, even the stinky ones), and seeing that this casserole had the white version and a nice mild Fontina, I thought that Doug might really enjoy it. You see, while I do love any cheese, my husband has a very … vocal … dislike for Gruyére for some reason. Unfortunately, more often than not, that’s the cheese that seems to be paired with Cheddar in most hoity-toity mac and cheese dishes.
So, even though it’s December and the magazine is from November, here’s some good comfort food for you.
There are three elements that make up a mac-and-cheese style casserole. The first, of course, is the pasta. In this case, it was big ole’ tubes of rigatoni. I cooked mine just past al dente, to barely soft (but not squishy) because I didn’t want the pasta to absorb a bunch of the sauce’s liquid and dry it out.
The second element is the sauce, in this case a creamy pan of wonderfulness perfumed with garlic. It begins with melted butter. Garlic and flour are whisked in until smooth, then, with the whisk still whisking, the cream is added and stirred until thickened. Once the cream is thickened, the Cheddar is stirred in until melted. Even though the recipe calls for the sauce to be seasoned after the pasta’s been added, I put my salt and pepper in at this point so I could be sure it was fully incorporated.
Finally, the topping’s made by combining melted butter, Fontina cheese and fresh breadcrumbs then sprinkling them on top of the pasta.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure how the topping would work out, but I was pleasantly surprised when the casserole came out of the oven. The Fontina had melted over the pasta and the crumbs were buttery and crispy.
That whole buttery and crispy thing? Pair that with creamy, garlicky pasta and you’ve got a match made in heaven. This was delicious.
Sophie, who hasn’t cared for anything beyond the blue boxed pasta in the past, enjoyed this as much as I did. The big rigatoni tubes captured the sauce so each bite was creamy. The Cheddar and Fontina were delicious together. I had been a little concerned that there wouldn’t be much in the way of flavor with just the garlic to provide it, but I was wrong.
As far as Doug goes, while he may never be a huge fan of cheesy dishes, he did enjoy this and ate a whole serving. That was good enough for me.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I added my salt and pepper to the sauce before folding the pasta in to make sure the seasoning is well incorporated.
Baked Two-Cheese Rigatoni Recipe
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish
- 1 16-oz. package rigatoni
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 12 oz. white Cheddar cheese, grated
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- 6 oz. Fontina cheese, grated
- 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and garlic and cook, whisking 1 minutes. Whisk in half-and-half and cook, whisking until thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in Cheddar until smooth. Fold in pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter. Toss together Fontina, breadcrumbs, and melted butter; sprinkle over pasta. Bake until golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes.