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. This recipe is best served soon after it’s made.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in middle position. Butter a 2-1/2 quart gratin or baking dish, or six, 10-ounce ramekins. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
Mix Panko, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Cook pasta to "al-dente" in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining well.
While bringing your pasta water to a boil, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until foaming subsides. Add pancetta and cook over medium-high heat until fat is rendered and pancetta is just beginning to crisp.
Add leeks, 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper to the pot. Cook until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until leeks are very soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and half and half, stirring until sauce is smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in Fontina, Gorgonzola, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring until well combined. Stir in enough pasta water to make the sauce creamy, but not thin and watery (I usually add about 1/4 cup). Transfer pasta to prepared baking dishes and top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and breadcrumbs are toasted. Sprinkle with parsley or chives, if desired, and serve hot.
*Gorgonzola can vary in pungency. Taste your Gorgonzola before adding it to the sauce. If it’s very assertive, add a bit less than the recipe calls for, and adjust to taste.