Penne Portabello with Balsamic-Gorgonzola Sauce

This is a very heavy dish, but the balsamic gives it a lighter flavor. It’s one of my favorite dishes, especially in winter. This will serve four people, but I don’t recommend leftovers. In my experience, it doesn’t reheat well (but I’ve also only had leftovers of this dish once).

To make it: 
  • 1 pound penne pasta (preferably whole-wheat)
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 4 portabella mushrooms, sliced, marinated in 1/4 cup Newman’s own Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette for 1/2 hour
  • 1/2 package Neufchatel cheese (aka reduced-fat cream cheese)
  • 1 pint half and half (you can also use 1% milk, but add a bit more Neufchatel to the mixture)

Put 1 gallon of water on to boil. When the water boils, add pasta. Cook pasta for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.

Saute portabella mushrooms in vinaigrette for about five minutes until they start getting tender. Add half and half or milk and heat through. Add Neufchatel and gorgonzola and continue cooking over medium heat until cheese is well incorporated and sauce is thick. Toss over pasta and serve hot.

Baked mac and cheese

I grew up eating my grandmother’s mac and cheese - pretty good, but BLAND as all get out - I think she used Velveeta and Cheddar for most of it, and almost no salt or spices. Finding myself in need of a kid-friendly, but adult-palatable meal last week, I stumbled upon this beautiful recipe. Using a bit of gorgonzola gives it a bite without too much punch, and the ground mustard and leeks just makes it magical. With the exception of my eight-year-old neice (who seemed crestfallen that it wasn’t Kraft), all 7 people in my house that night devoured this. It’s not low-fat by any stretch of the imagination, so make this on a cold night when you have a lot of people to feed. It keeps pretty well, too - but I don’t recommend freezing it.

To make it: 
  • 1 pound of pasta (preferably a medium-sized shell shape - I don’t like elbows much)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into thin half-moon shapes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped roughly (you want largish pieces)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp paprika (regular)
  • 1 tbsp ground mustard (I grind my own in a mortar and pestle)
  • a couple of pinches herbs de provence
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup grated colby
  • 3/4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola crumbles
  • 1/2 grated parmesan or asiago
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, unseasoned

Preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta until it’s about 3/4 done - you want it to still have a lot of bite to it, but be a bit softer. Drain and spread out into a 13*9 casserole dish or Bar pan.

To make the sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan and sauté leeks and garlic until they soften. Add flour, paprika, mustard, salt, pepper and herbs and sauté for a bit longer until the flour gets pasty and a bit brown. Add milk and whisk to incorporate anything. Heat on medium, whisking constantly until everything is well incorporated and milk is heated through. Add colby, gorgonzola and sharp cheddar along with about 1/4 cup of the grated parmesan or asiago. Keep whisking on medium until cheese melts and incorporates into the mixture and it starts getting thicker. It might not get super-thick; don’t worry about it. A lot of the liquid soaks into the pasta while it bakes.

When the sauce is good and done (taste a bit of it to be sure it tastes right), pour the whole thing over the pasta and stir to coat in the pan. Top the whole thing with the rest of the grated parmesan or asiago and the breadcrumbs. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs start to get brown. Serve hot with some sautéed ginger carrots (just sauté them with a bit of butter and ginger ale until they’re tender - thanks Alton Brown!) and a salad.