Mac and cheese is delicious just the way it is, but why not amp it up with some Italian flavours? A creamy sauce is built with easy-melting Fontina and flavour-packed Grana Padano cheeses. Spicy Italian sausage, bright tomatoes and classic herbs will have your family proclaiming "mi amore!".
Yield: Serves 4-6
1 lb (454g) of penne pasta
4 Italian sausages
1/2 cup (125 mL) of extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) flour
A 28-ounce (796 mL) can of chopped tomatoes
A 12-ounce (357 mL) can of evaporated milk or 1 1/2 (375 mL) cups of whipping cream
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced fresh or dried thyme, basil or oregano leaves
A sprinkle or two of salt
8 ounces (225 g) or so of grated Fontina cheese
8 ounces (225 g) or so of grated Grana Padano cheese
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Lightly oil a 13- x 9-inch (3.5L) baking dish with nonstick spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a furious boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
In a medium pot over medium-high heat, brown the sausages evenly on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, slice into rounds, and add to the pasta.
Heat the olive oil in the pot used to cook the sausage. Sauté the garlic for a minute or two until fragrant. Evenly sprinkle the flour over the works, then stir it in well to make a thick paste. Whisking constantly, pour in the tomatoes and evaporated milk or cream, then gently stir as the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Smoothly stir in the herbs, salt and cheeses, then bring to a simmer. Pour the sauce over the pasta and sausage and mix the works together.
Pour the mac and cheese into the prepared casserole dish. Bake until hot and bubbly, 30 minutes or so.
© Chef Michael Smith