The best recipes really aren’t recipes at all. They are guidelines; a framework of ingredients and preparation that allow for improvisation. For instance, take the Penne with Tomato, Cream & Five Cheeses recipe that ran on Food52 recently. They picked it from a cookbook written by the owners of a Rhode Island restaurant named Al Forno. The accompanying article talks about how the restaurant will swap in seasonal ingredients and is implicit about using whatever cheese you have on hand, rather than buying five cheeses specifically for the dish.
The cheese part was easy enough. I had Pecorino romano, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, sharp provolone and mozzarella in the fridge. I grabbed fontina and gorgonzola while shopping on Sunday. The end result is a fairly inexpensive, filling dish that goes together very quickly. Healthy it’s not, but sometimes you have to sacrifice a little LDL in the name of dinner.
WHAT WORKED: Surprisingly, the blend of cheeses was perfect. I was expecting the gorgonzola to over power, but it was just the right amount of tang.
WHAT DIDN’T: The 2 cups of cream. It is excessive and can probably come back by a 1/2 cup.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is good. Soupy, but good.”
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Very likely. It’s a nice pasta dish that works as a side for entertaining.
Al Forno’s Penne with Tomato, Cream & Five Cheeses
Adapted from Food52
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes in heavy puree
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 cup coarsely shredded Fontina cheese
- 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 tbsp. ricotta cheese
- 1/4 pound thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
- 6 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb. penne rigate or conchiglie rigate
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, sliced thinly
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the pasta and butter. Stir well to combine.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine.
Divide the pasta mixture among six to eight shallow ceramic gratin dishes (1 1/2 to 2 cups in capacity) or place in a shallow (1-inch) layer in larger baking dishes. Dot with the butter, and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 7 to 10 minutes.