Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

In case you didn’t notice with recipes like Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese, I’m a huge mac and cheese fan.

And I like to experiment a little.  Change things up.

Sure, I keep some box mac and cheese mixes on hand for days when I’m feeling super lazy, but macaroni and cheese is not a complicated dish.  One of the things I love about it is the casserole nature of the baked mac and cheese that allows me to wash up all the dishes and such while it’s baking.  Which means easy cleanup after dinner.

For me, easy cleanup = easy dinner.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Anyway, here are the ingredients for this dish.

I chose Gruyere, which is something I used to eat more of when I lived in Germany, so I like to use it occasionally.

The Capicola is a spicy ham that we put in our cold cut pies around Easter.  Apparently this is an Italian thing.  Either way, I like the ham.

But it CAN be spicy.  And the spice is intensified a little when you fry it, which is why you can see that I only added a small amount to the top of my dish right before serving.  You don’t need a lot.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I don’t always use heavy cream when making mac and cheese, but usually just because I don’t have it on hand.

It adds a nice thickness.

Whether you use it or just straight milk, though, your roux should reach a point of being thick enough that the cheese doesn’t fall straight to the bottom when you sprinkle it in.

To get to that point, bring your roux JUST to a boil, stirring frequently.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I switch between Panko and regular bread crumbs.  Whatever I’m in the mood for.

In this recipe, I used Panko.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Doesn’t that look awesome?

It’s the cooked noodles mixed into the cheese sauce before it’s baked.  You do want it to look a little soupy, because the sauce will thicken up in the oven.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Here are the bread crumbs before baking.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I used a 1/4 lb. of Capicola, slicing it rather thinly.

You could use more:  it shrinks significantly when you fry it (like bacon), but, like I said, you don’t really need a lot.

It’s just an accent.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I threw the Capicola into the pan with just a touch of olive oil to help keep it from sticking.

Fry until nice and dark, but not quite burnt.

Then drain it on paper towels and serve separately.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Doesn’t that look good??

If your bread crumbs don’t brown enough during the last few minutes of baking, go ahead and broil it for two or three minutes – just keep a close eye since it can burn.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

And there’s the finished product:  scooped into a bowl with a pinch of the crispy, spicy ham.

Serve with some salad and you got a meal.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

 Smoked Gruyere Mac & Cheese with Fried Capicola

Serves: 6+

Ingredients:

3 cups Rigatoni pasta
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups Smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup Swiss, shredded
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 to 1/2 lb. Capicola

For Breadcrumbs:

3 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook the pasta until al dente, or one minute less than the recommended cooking time.

In a medium saucepan, melt the 2 Tbs. of butter. Stir in the flour to create a roux. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Cook over medium to medium high heat until just boiling, stirring frequently. Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and spices. Continue to stir over low heat until the cheese has melted.

Mix the 3 Tbs. of butter with the breadcrumbs.

Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. Pour into an 8 x 8 inch or a 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Cover pan with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges. If the breadcrumbs are not browned, broil for 2 or 3 minutes, watching closely.

Meanwhile, while the macaroni is baking, slice the Capicola thinly and fry over medium heat. Add a touch of olive oil if it seems to be sticking. Once the ham is crispy, drain on paper towels. Serve in a separate dish, to be used as a topping.

[Note: if you use a different shape of pasta, you may need to adjust the amount. Also, the ham is only meant as an accent. If you want a significant portion in your macaroni, use 1/2 to 1 lb.]

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Click here to print the free PDF version:  Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Enjoy!

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Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

When I was five years old my favorite food was macaroni and cheese.

Nothing’s changed.

Seriously, I could eat this stuff every day.  But it IS nice to change up the elbows and cheddar routine.  And one of my favorite ways to do that is with Gouda.

As you’ll see, I also incorporated sausage into this.  You could do that in a variety of ways, but I chose to fry the sausage and cut it into half-slices.  You could also remove the casing and crumble it into the pan to cook, if you think you’d prefer that.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

I also added half a sweet onion for flavor.  As you can tell from the photos, I removed most of the onion before adding the sausage pieces to the macaroni because they’d become a little too dark for my taste.  I didn’t want the taste of the burnt onion pieces in my final dish, but cooking the sausage with the onions gave it a nice depth of flavor.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

This recipe also calls for a basic roux.  Butter, flour, milk, cheese:  voila.

And pepper.  Gotta have my spice.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Also, I used Corkscrew pasta.  I like to change up the shapes of pasta sometimes, but keep in mind that when using a different shape of pasta than what the recipe calls for, you may need to adjust the amount.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

You could easily use regular breadcrumbs, but I like using Panko sometimes.  I used it here.

If you’re not going to bake it right away, wait to add the breadcrumbs until just before baking.  Sometimes I put a little bit of my mac mixture into a small ramekin or two to keep in the fridge to bake another day.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

And, if your breadcrumbs don’t brown as much as you’d like by the time the sauce is bubbling nicely, then just broil it for a couple minutes.

As you can see from my photo, the Panko don’t brown as quickly or evenly as regular breadcrumbs.  But they’re still toasty, even the parts still light in color, so it still adds a nice crunch to the dish.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac & Cheese

So, here’s the path to yumminess:

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups corkscrew pasta
2 to 4 sausage links
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
5 Tbs butter, separated
3 Tbs flour
2 tsp pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 cups (8 oz.) apple smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion and sausage and cook until onions are translucent and sausage is at least mostly cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and slice into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices, and cut the slices in half. Return sausage to pan, adding extra olive oil if the pan is too dry, and cook until the pieces are well-browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels, removing any onions that have become too dark (or all of them if you only want the flavor of them in the meat).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Also, in a small dish, melt the 2 Tbs butter and mix the panko into it. Set panko aside.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a saucepot. Sprinkle flour over it and stir well to create a roux. Add pepper and stir for a minute to lessen the taste of the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook at medium high, stirring frequently, until just starting to boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn heat to low and stir in cheese. Stir until cheese is fully incorporated.

Stir the cooked pasta and sausage into the cheese sauce. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle the panko over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more, or until sauce begins to bubble. If desired, you can broil it for 2 minutes to achieve a well-browned crust on the breadcrumb topping.

(Note: Dish can be stored in the fridge or freezer before baking. Let sit at room temp at least 30 mins from fridge before baking and add 10 mins to baking time. Do not add panko until ready to bake.)

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Print the FREE PDF of the recipe:  Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Enjoy!

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