I have a problem: I buy too much cheese.
How can I help it? The cheese aisle at my local Monoprix is as large and varied as the cereal aisle at grocery stores in the States, and there are two (two!) cheese shops on that same block. The fromagers at both of the shops are incredibly patient people who are always eager to recommend this little white pyramid of chèvre or that bright-orange wedge of mimolette or that other bit of green funky deliciousness because, “it is in season, mademoiselle!” I didn’t know that cheeses followed seasons until I moved here. Who could say no?
And so, I am often found with five, six, seven bits of oozy, stinky, pungent cheese in my fridge, which is all threatening to pass its prime any day now. There is just no way that two people can go through that much cheese via the usual on-a-bit-of-baguette method. This is about when I invite some people over for five (or more) cheese pasta, and grate the rest for gougères. Because good cheese is precious.
Penne with Five Cheeses
Yes, this recipe has two cups of heavy cream in it. Yes, I suppose you could sub out some of that cream for milk. No, I don’t think you should.
The recipe below lists specific cheeses to use, but the only essential one to include is mozzarella — you want those long gooey melty strings to twirl around your fork. As for the rest, just make sure you have 4-5oz of several different styles of cheese. Honestly, whatever you have in your fridge should be fine.
Serves 4, or 6 to 8 as an appetizer
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes in heavy puree
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup coarsely shredded (1 1/2 ounces) Fontina cheese
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, (1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1/4 pound thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
6 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 pound penne rigate or conchiglie rigate
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, sliced thinly
Heat oven to 500 degrees and 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.
This is the base recipe that I use. Feel free to change around the cheeses, herbs, and spices to your liking. For example: comté and parmesan with a pinch of cayenne, some smoked paprika and chopped fresh thyme. Or! Aged cheddar, with the water subbed out for Guinness, plus fresh chives. You get the picture. Just make sure you stick with drier cheeses for this one.
Makes about 36 gougères.
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water (or beer, or tea, or…)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (gruyère, comté, parmesan, pecorino, sharp cheddar…)
Herbs and spices to taste (chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, or oregano; sweet or hot paprika, cayenne, fennel seeds, dry mustard…)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat the water, butter, salt, and any dry herbs or spices you’re using in a saucepan until the butter is melted.
Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a smooth ball and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring over the heat until a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan; remove pan from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes, to cool the dough a bit.
Add each of the four the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. (You could also do this with a mixer or food processor.)
Add the cheese and any fresh herbs and mix until incorporated.
Using two spoons, scoop the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet in tablespoon-sized mounds. Or, if you’re a perfectionist, use a small cookie scoop or a piping bag. I suspect you would get taller gougères with the latter two methods.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the gougères are a toasty golden brown all over. Serve warm with a kir.
Music to cook by: Settle Down [Kimbra // Vows]