Returning to my cinder-block dorm apartment on a sub-20℉ Boston day rarely encourages a homemade meal that requires me to leave the comfort of my couch and cozy blankets. Yet, as last week witnessed another devastating Groundhog Day turnout, with the celebrated Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter, a new cold-weather recipe is a must.
While we cannot forgo our down jackets and our clunky snow boots, we can find a way to delight in the dreary. I have always found that the best recipes deliver their delicious aromas down the hall, and allow us to stir and simultaneously warm our hands and blushing cheeks as we stand pensively over the stove.
This recipe is what I’d like to consider an elevated mac n’ cheese, a revamping of the most classic comfort food. This truffle pesto pasta calls upon the mild, nutty flavor of Swiss cheese to complement the rich flavor of basil, pine-nut pesto, and truffle salt. The ingredients in the sauce guarantee a creamy, and soft texture. And while the mix of pesto and Swiss cheese provides a light coating to the macaroni, they caution to overpower your taste buds and drown the pasta. Baking this dish with a final layering of Swiss cheese is the perfect finishing touch, in addition to the finely chopped fresh basil that gives a professional flair to a simple meal.
Unfortunately, the next few weeks promise to test our willingness to prepare dinner ourselves, with the ease of dashing dinner to our door at our fingertips. However, this dish reminds us that we hold the skills to savor, even in the event of seasonal sorrow.
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
½ cup whole milk
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
½ cup (4 oz) pesto
16 oz macaroni pasta, or the shape of your choice
1 teaspoon truffle salt
¼ cup pasta water
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
Finely mince the four cloves of garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic once the olive oil begins to sizzle. Add the salted butter to the skillet, stirring slowly in combination with the olive oil and garlic. Once the butter is melted, add the whole milk and ¾ cup of grated Swiss cheese, and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. I often use a macaroni-style of pasta for this recipe, as the shape helps scoop the sauce in every bite, but any type of pasta can be used.
While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the pesto and truffle salt to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the pan with the sauce, saving the pasta water. Cook the sauce for one minute and then add ¼ cup of the pasta water. Let the sauce simmer for another 5 minutes, as the starchy pasta water helps to bind and thicken the sauce. Transfer the pasta to an oven-safe dish, add the last ¼ cup of Swiss cheese to the top of the dish, and place in the oven to broil for 3 minutes. Serve hot with chopped, fresh basil as a flavorful garnish. Enjoy!
cover photo courtesy of odd box