Thursday, March 15, 2012

Macaroni and Four-Cheese Casserole with Asparagus and Prosciutto

This is a layered mac-and-cheese. Makes 8 servings


4 ounces Asiago, shredded
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
4 ounces Pecorino Romano, shredded
4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for the baking dish
1⁄2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
12 ounces pencil-thin asparagus spears, peeled and cut into sections to match the length of the dried pasta you’ve selected (see Note)
1 large onion, chopped
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 quart) whole or low-fat milk (do not use fat-free), at room temperature
12 ounces dried ziti, rigatoni, or fusilli, cooked and drained
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice


Mix the cheeses in a large bowl and set aside.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F . Lightly butter a 3-quart, high-sided, round baking dish; set it aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and set aside.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Sprinkle the flour over the onion, wait for 5 seconds, and cook, stirring constantly so the flour loses its raw taste, about 15 seconds. Do not brown.

Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream. Continue cooking, whisking all the while, until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, dry mustard, and allspice, as well as the prosciutto and asparagus mixture.

Place one-quarter of the pasta and cream sauce in the baking dish; top with a quarter of the cheese. Spoon a third of the remaining pasta and cream sauce in the dish, coating it to the sides of the dish; top with a third of the remaining cheese. Spoon half the remaining pasta sauce into the dish; top with half the remaining cheese. Finally, add the remaining pasta sauce to the dish and then the remaining cheese.

Bake until gooey and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler, taking off the tough, outer skin. If the spears are too thick, simply continue shaving them down until they become pencil width.

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