Creamy Gorgonzola Macaroni and Cheese with sweet caramelized leeks, salty pancetta, and a blend of three rich cheeses is an elegant twist on a comfort food classic. Don’t forget the cheesy, crunchy, buttery bread crumbs on top!
Back in the 80’s, Macaroni and Cheese and I had an unfortunate encounter. I spent an afternoon at my friend’s house, and, with the best of intentions, her older sister made us lunch with a boxed mix. Looking back on it, it was probably a stovetop mix, but she popped it in the microwave instead for about a minute. As young as I was, I still remember chewing the crunchy, uncooked noodles! Through the years, I’ve gotten to taste many different types of macaroni and cheese (fortunately, all with fully-cooked pasta) and have developed something of a love affair with the dish. It’s the ultimate winter comfort food in my house. It’s decadent, it’s warming, and while it isn’t exactly health food in all of it’s buttery, cheesy glory, it’s a dish that’s so worth the occasional splurge.
I make my macaroni and cheese as my mother taught me; with a classic flour, butter, and milk-based Béchamel sauce and lots of shredded cheese (a Mornay sauce, really). Classic Mac and Cheese is pure nostalgia (we’ll usually make it with Cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, and a touch of Dijon), but I love experimenting with different flavor combinations. Some of our favorites have been Smoked Gouda; mushroom and Gruyère; and the recipe that I’m sharing with you today, Gorgonzola, caramelized leek, and pancetta. Regardless of the cheese I use, I always buy blocks and shred them at home. Pre-shredded cheeses usually have added starches to prevent clumping, which risk making your sauce gritty.
What we’ve loved about this dish is that the Gorgonzola brings a nice piquant flavor to the background without being overpowering. In general, Gorgonzola can be pungent, so you don’t need to use a lot of it to add flavor here. (Pungency will vary by wedge and variety, so taste yours before using and add it conservatively if it’s on the stronger side.) To make a true cheese sauce, I combine the Gorgonzola with a beautifully-melting Fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano. Caramelized leeks give the dish a delicate hint of sweetness, and the pancetta (Italian cured, un-smoked pork belly) adds a nice saltiness. I like to top the dish with buttery Panko breadcrumbs and let them toast as the macaroni bakes. So heavenly. A pan of this would be great for game day parties, warming up during a blizzard, or really, “just ’cause.” Does one really need a reason to dig into a pan of bubbly macaroni and cheese? I think not!
Love Macaroni and Cheese as much as I do? Check out some of my favorite recipes around the Web:
Bouchon Bistro Macaroni au Gratin (Saveur)
Mac and Two Cheeses with Caramelized Shallots (Epicurious)
Stovetop Mac and Cheese (Food and Wine)
Labrador Lounge Lobster Mac and Cheese (Striped Spatula)
“Our Favorite” Macaroni and Cheese (Epicurious)
Did you know I have a weekly newsletter? Subscribe to say up to date on what’s delicious on the blog!