Recipes Main Courses Pasta Rice and Grains Mt. Tam Mac and Cheese Gratin

Mt. Tam Mac and Cheese Gratin

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8

More like a gratin than your typical mac and cheese, this dish has a creamy, liquid texture and subtle, rich flavor. The recipe calls for Mt. Tam cheese, a smooth triple-cream cow’s milk cheese with a mellow, earthy flavor reminiscent of white mushrooms. Order it online, or substitute another high-quality triple-cream cow’s milk cheese.

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. (250 g) small penne pasta
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. (500 g) spinach, preferably Bloomsdale
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups (12 oz./375 g) cubes from a rustic country loaf, each about 1/2 inch (12 mm) square


For the Mt. Tam sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) dry white wine
  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) heavy cream
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 wheel Mt. Tam cheese, rind removed and cheese cubed

  • 3 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
  • Leaves from 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the spinach, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and press with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid. Set aside.

Working in batches as necessary, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread cubes and fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer the croutons to a paper towel–lined plate and season with salt. Set aside.

To make the Mt. Tam sauce, in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Simmer until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cream, lemon zest and Mt. Tam cheese. Season generously with pepper and adjust the seasoning with salt.

In a large bowl, stir together the pasta, spinach, Mt. Tam sauce, thyme and parsley. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish. Scatter the croutons and Parmesan cheese on top. Bake until bubbling and hot in the center, about 20 minutes. If the croutons start to darken, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Charlie Parker, Chef, Haven, Oakland, CA