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Farmers' Pasta: Vegetarian Baked Pasta to Feed a Crowd

Preparation 20 min Cook Time 40 min Total Time 1:00

This special-occasion recipe (our family's traditional Christmas Eve dinner with a big green salad), is adapted from Giada de Laurentiis. You can prepare the dish all the way through pouring it into the baking pan and topping with the cheeses, then cool it to room temperature, refrigerate it tightly covered, and bake up to 24 hours later. Leave out for an hour to bring back to room temperature before baking, or add up to 10 minutes more baking time to compensate.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 cups whole milk
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced and divided
  • 8 ounces mild fontina or edam cheese, shredded
  • 6 ounces provolone or manchego cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until just shy of al dente, about 7 minutes if the package says 11. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in heavy 5-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for just a moment, until aromatic.
  • Add the flour all at once and cook, whisking frequently, for 90 seconds. Add the milk, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When the milk boils, immediately lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  • Off the heat, add half the mozzarella, the fontal, the manchego, and half the Parmigiano. Stir until cheese is melted. Stir in the the basil, parsley, and nutmeg. Season generously to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in the pasta.
  • Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C with a rack in the center. Pour mixture into a deep 9x13-inch baking dish or large braiser. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmigiano. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
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