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Mac and ricotta

February 18, 2009

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Serves 6

The twisted pasta called strozzapreti ("priest stranglers") particularly suits this simple ricotta, fontina, and egg mixture, which catches in the curves of each loop. The dish is layered with mozzarella and topped with crumbs, which brown during baking. The end result is lighter than most mac and cheeses.

Olive oil (for the pan)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound strozzapreti, penne, shells, or other medium pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 pound fontina, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup grated mozzarella
4 slices white toasting bread, left out overnight to turn stale
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and stir several times as the water returns to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite tender; it will cook more later. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the oil and pepper. Toss well and set aside to cool slightly, stirring occasionally.

3. In a bowl, cream the ricotta with salt and pepper. Add the eggs a little at a time. Pour the ricotta mixture into the pasta and stir gently but thoroughly.

4. Add half the mixture to the baking dish. Scatter the fontina on top. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Add the remaining pasta mixture to the dish. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

5. In a food processor, work the bread until it forms coarse crumbs. In a bowl, toss the bread and butter. Sprinkle the mixture on the dish.

6. Bake the pasta for 30 minutes or until the top starts to brown and the dish is bubbling at the edges.

Sheryl Julian