This is a twist on one of the most classic dishes of all: macaroni and cheese. This is a dish people will never tire of seeing you bring to the table. The mixture of the cheese and cream with the walnuts has all the trappings of the best toasted breadcrumb flavor on top of macaroni. The fontina is a great neutral cheese that picks up the walnuts and breadcrumbs and falls into all the crevices of the macaroni and the cream sauce. Stirring in the spinach at the last minute and crusting with walnut breadcrumbs makes it all the more special. This could pass as a side dish next to anything or stand on its own as a meatless dish.
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni, about 12 oz.
3 cups half and half
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups grated Fontina cheese
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 1/4 cupFisher® Chef’s Naturals Walnut Halves and Pieces
1 package Baby Spinach (5 oz.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 13 x 9-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread panko onto a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until browned: set aside.
Cook the macaroni: Bring 12 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add the salt and bring the water back to a boil. Taste the water. It should be salty like sea water. Add the macaroni and stir, with a wooden spoon or large slotted spoon, to ensure the macaroni does not stick to the bottom of the pot as it cooks. Follow package directions to cook the pasta until it is “al dente” or slightly firm. Strain the macaroni; set aside.
Make the sauce: Heat the half and half over medium-high heat in the same pot that was used to cook the pasta. Add the mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco, the Fontina, Asiago and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. Simmer gently, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and integrates with the cream. Add the macaroni to the cream and stir gently to blend. Allow the macaroni to “rest” on the stove, 5-10 minutes, so the pasta absorbs some of the half and half. Stir in the spinach and ¾ cup of walnuts. Combine the remaining ½ cup walnuts with the toasted panko and remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Mix to blend. Transfer the macaroni to the prepared pan and top with the walnut breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until piping hot. Serve immediately.