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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Penne Pasta with Gouda and Prosciutto

Tonight's recipe is something that came together as a bit of a surprise.  We wanted to make salads for dinner with a little something on the side, and I had a few requests for mac n cheese.  But if I was going to make pasta, I wanted it to be special.  Not only did this dish taste great for dinner, the kids grabbed the leftovers the next day for lunch.  My youngest (a.k.a. - the picky eater) has even requested I make this again soon.  That's the ultimate compliment!

After a little fridge investigation, I found a wheel of smoked Gouda cheese and some prosciutto ham that I had picked up at Trader Joe's, and those became the base for this dish.  Although macaroni and cheese is not a difficult dish to make, there are a few ingredients that elevate simple pasta into more of a grown-up dish.  The key to really great macaroni and cheese is, dry mustard.  Regardless of which cheese or meat you choose to include, that little touch of dry mustard is what brings all of the other flavors together.

Another great seasoning to add to a creamy cheese sauce is white pepper.  Using ground black pepper is an option, but white pepper adds a mild, subtle flavor and it eliminates the little black specks in the beautiful white sauce.

The balance of flavors from the Gouda and prosciutto were amazing in this dish. Each bite had the salty, sweet edge of Gouda, but also the bits of slightly salty prosciutto.  This dish would be great served with steaks, a baked ham or is even suitable for Thanksgiving dinner.  It's that good!  Give this recipe a try and Enjoy!!

2 quarts  Water
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 lb  Dry Penne Pasta
4 oz  Prosciutto Ham Slices, chopped into small pieces
2 TB  Butter
2 TB  Flour
1 cup  Half and Half
1 1/2 cups  Milk
1 tsp   Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
5 oz  Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated
1/2 cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a medium casserole dish with butter and set aside.

In a large saucepan bring the water and 2 tsp salt to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente, but not fully cooked.  Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

Add the prosciutto to the same pot and pour the pasta over the prosciutto.  Stir to combine and set the pasta aside.

While the pasta is cooking you can prepare the cheese sauce. 

In a small saucepan, melt the 2 TB butter over medium heat.  Add the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly add the half and half, followed by the milk, whisking constantly to blend.  Add the salt, dry mustard and white pepper, and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese a little at a time.  Continue to stir until the cheese is melted into the sauce.  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix well to coat the pasta, then pour the pasta into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake until the golden on top, about 20 minutes.

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