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Three-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

For this recipe, a pasta with ridges will hold the sauce best. Look for artisanal or whole-grain dried pasta, which has a better flavor than standard boxed versions. This dish is finished under a broiler to brown the bread crumbs.

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt, to taste 
  • 1 lb. dried pasta, such as macaroni or penne rigate 
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme 
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed into a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 6 to 8 oz. pecorino romano cheese, very finely grated 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 5 slices orange or white American cheese 
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese 

Directions:

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water and add the pasta, stirring with a large wooden spoon to prevent clumping. Return to a boil and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return the pasta to the pot and toss with 2 Tbs. of the melted butter.

Preheat a broiler to medium-high. Brush the sides and bottom of a large gratin dish or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with melted butter.

In a bowl, combine the olive oil and the remaining 2 Tbs. melted butter. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, garlic paste and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pecorino cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom and sides of the prepared gratin dish with some of the bread crumb mixture.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil, being careful not to let it boil over. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining pecorino and the American and cheddar cheeses. Whisk gently until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta and stir to coat. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to the prepared gratin dish and top with the remaining bread crumb mixture. Broil, rotating the pan halfway through cooking, until the bread crumbs are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).