Three-Cheese Pasta Gratin With Almond Crust
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 garlic clove pressed
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups hot whole milk
- 10 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 8 ounces hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese grated
- 1 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese - (lightly packed)
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
- Salt to taste
- Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- 1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
- 1 pound short tube-shaped pasta (such as cavatapi or macaroni)
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour; stir 3 minutes. Whisk in hot milk. Bring to simmer, stirring. Cover partially; simmer until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add cheddar and Jack cheese, 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese and hot pepper sauce. Whisk until sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Whisk over medium heat to rewarm before using.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter bottom and sides of 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Blend 1/3 cup Parmesan, almonds and breadcrumbs in processor until nuts are coarsely ground. Add 1/2 cup almond mixture to prepared dish. Tilt dish to coat bottom and sides. Return any loose almond mixture to processor.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce; stir to coat. Transfer to prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining almond mixture over.
Bake until almond mixture is golden and crunchy and sauce bubbles, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes.
This recipe yields 8 servings.