This is one of those recipes that if we could make it once a week and not gain a pound, we would. It's extra cheesy and depending upon your liking, can be very smokey, which we happen to love! What we love most about this recipe is that it's pretty forgiving. You can mix and match the types of cheese you use, add chopped meats such as ham or bacon (or even sausage) and even add a crunchy stuffing-like topping.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-pupose flour
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar
- 1 cup shredded smoked cheddar
- 1 cup gouda
- salt and pepper to taste
- cayenne pepper (as much or little as you want, we usually use at least a teaspoon if not more)
- 2 cups bread chunks, preferably country-style with the crusts removed (we've also used Stove Top when feeling really lazy)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 pound rigatoni, cooked to your preference
Over medium heat, melt the butter, whisk in flour and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the milk and tomato paste, stirring frequently until it becomes thick. Add salt, pepper and cayenne. Add the cheese a 1/2 cup at the time, stirring to make sure it melts completely, reserve 1/2 cup of cheese.
If using bread, tear into 1/2 pieces, combine in a bowl with melted butter.
In a large bowl, combine pasta and cheese sauce. Then add to a large prepared baking dish or two 8x8inch pans. Put the bread mixture over the pasta and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350º
You may also try these cheese combinations (the one we never omit is the gouda): smokey harveti, munster, smoked mozzarella, cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta. Prior to making this recipe this time, we added 2 cups gouda, 1 cup smoked cheddar, 1/4 cup ricotta, 3/4 cup munster topped with leftover cornbread and about a cup of chopped pre-cooked bacon we had left over from breakfast. It was de-lish!