Three Cheese Gnocchi Shell Pasta with Truffles
Tallagio, Aged Gruyere and Extra Sharp Cheddar
This is a cherished time of the year in Northern Michigan. The pace has slowed down from our hectic summer schedules. The weather can be absolutely fabulous and the milder temperatures are a welcome friend. By no means am I ready to put away the grill but the comfort foods of winter are beckoning my name. There is nothing more warm and cozy feeling than homemade macaroni and cheese. The fun part about macaroni and cheese is that it pairs perfectly with grilled and baked meats. So no matter what the weather brings this time of year, we can serve macaroni and cheese.
Warm Weather – Keep the Grill Going
Serve with grilled steaks, burgers, barbequed ribs, chicken, brats and hot dogs
Cool Weather – Warm Cozy Kitchen with the Oven Warming
Serve with Baked Chicken, Meatloaf, Beef Roast, Ham or as your main entrée with a beautiful side salad.
I couldn’t present you with just any ordinary macaroni and cheese. I had to have fun with it. When it came to the cheese, I chose these three because of how well they would blend together. Step aside American Cheese and Velvetta. The Tallagio is a gorgeous Italian cheese with a pungent smell but has an extremely mild creamy flavor with a fruity tang. It’s a perfect melting cheese. The Aged Gruyere from Switzerland gives the recipe some depth with its nutty, earthy flavor. The third cheese I chose was an Extra Sharp Cheddar. Macaroni and Cheese just needs to have some color. The extra sharp cheddar has a strong enough flavor to stand up to the Gruyere but not too much to hide the beauty of the Tallagio.
Macaroni and Cheese needs a little more flavor so it’s not just pasta with a creamy cheese sauce. Traditionally, nutmeg has been the go to addition. But, the thought of nutmeg with my carefully selected cheeses just didn’t sit right. So, along came the idea for truffles, garlic and shallots. Each one of these could over power the dish so I was very careful to keep them in check. To get the truffle flavor and avoid the huge expense of truffles, I used truffle butter to make my roux. I cooked a small amount of shallots and garlic in the truffle butter before adding my flour.
Then came the pasta. I couldn’t use just plain old elbow noodles. How elegant would that be? I picked gnocchi shells. But there is a whole world of fun pasta out there. You want to use a pasta that will hold the cheese sauce. Other ideas would be penne, orecchiette, fusilli or cavatelli. The trick to making your pasta perfect for this dish is to cook it 2 minutes less than the package’s recommendation. We want it cooked less than el dente. When you cook it to el dente, the pasta continues to cook when you put it in the oven. You end up with a mushy pasta covered in cheese sauce.
To make everything run smoothly so you can have fun cooking, you’ll need to get all your ingredients ready. Once things are shredded, cubed and chopped it time to start playing!