I am a sucker for baked pasta of any description. Whether it is a dish of paper-thin pasta sheets in a lasagna, or a bubbly, golden brown topped pasta bake like this one, I would always choose baked pasta over any other type. This dish combines my favorite Italian cheese that is melted into a creamy béchamel sauce, along with salty, crisp pancetta pieces.
If you have never tasted Taleggio, I highly recommend it. It has a similar texture to Brie, but the flavor of this Italian cheese is comparatively mild with an unusual fruity, almost musty tang.
When making this type of pasta, I always undercook the pasta before combining it with the sauce as the pasta will continue to cook as it bakes. My husband’s biggest complaint about pasta is that he dislikes mushy pasta! So, if I prepare this dish ahead of time, I will allow the sauce and pasta to cool to room temperature before combining them, so the pasta does not get mushy. I then refrigerate the dish until needed, removing it from the refrigerator to allow it to come to room temperature at least an hour before baking.
I also like to top a baked pasta dish with a crisp crumb topping which adds a nice crunchy texture to the creamy pasta. I used a spiral shaped type of dried pasta in my version, but any short pasta such as penne or rigatoni would work just fine.
- 3/4 Pound Dried Pasta
- 8 Ounces Diced Pancetta
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/3 Cup All-purpose Flour
- 4 Cups Whole Milk
- 2 Cups Diced Taleggio
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Cook the pasta half the cooking time recommended on the box.
Drain, and set aside.
Brown the pancetta in a frying pan over medium heat, then use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta from the fat and set aside.
In a heavy stockpot, melt the butter, and once bubbly, whisk in the flour.
Continue to whisk just until the flour begins to color, then slowly pour in the milk.
Continue to whisk until all the milk has been added and continue to whisk often as the milk heats.
Once the milk is hot, add the diced Taleggio and whisk as the cheese melts.
As soon as the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth, lightly salt and add pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Dump the pasta, pancetta, and sauce in a large bowl, and stir to mix.
Lightly butter a large oven-proof casserole dish and dump the pasta mixture in.
In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, and oil.
Blend with your fingertips.
Sprinkle the top of the pasta with the crumbs, then bake until the casserole is golden brown and bubbly, about 35 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 778Total Fat: 55gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 831mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 2gSugar: 10gProtein: 26g