This adult version of mac ‘n’ cheese is sure to be a big potluck hit. It was given to us by Hugo Matheson, chef at the fantastic Boulder, Colorado, restaurant The Kitchen. Don’t skimp on the ingredient quality here—with so few elements, premium cheese and ham are paramount.
What to buy:
If you do not have prosciutto, any thinly sliced, high-quality salt-cured ham such as jamón serrano will do. Or make it vegetarian by leaving out the prosciutto altogether.
Be sure to use a good-quality cheese for this recipe. Please don’t buy the pre-grated kind, as it will not really give much in terms of flavor. If you don’t like Gruyère, an aged cheddar is a good substitute.
Game plan: This whole dish can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to a day. To finish, take the dish out of the fridge, allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, and then bake until heated through.
10 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated through the large holes of a box grater (about 4 1/4 cups)
1 quart heavy cream (4 cups)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut widthwise into 1/2-inch-thick ribbons
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Heat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain and reserve.
Meanwhile, pour heavy cream in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add all but a handful of the cheese, and stir until melted. Add a pinch of nutmeg, stir in the pasta and prosciutto, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
In a large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, softened butter, garlic, thyme, and cheese, and rub together with your fingers until evenly incorporated and no visible chunks of butter remain. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer pasta mixture to a 2 1/2 – quart ceramic or glass casserole dish and top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Beverage pairing:Benton-Lane Pinot Noir, Oregon. Red or white wine can go well with good ham and cheese, but the bright, fruity warmth of a new-world Pinot is a good way to go. In this Oregon example, Bing cherry and raspberry flavors are tempered by a slight, refreshing tartness and fresh acidity that make it a great complement to this indulgent dish.