serves 4 as a main dish
2 tbsp. salted butter, melted
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or coarse dry breadcrumbs
3 cups (12 oz) shredded white extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
8 oz dry penne pasta
1 tbsp. black truffle oil (optional)
2 tsp. olive oil
4 slices uncooked smoked bacon, preferably applewood, chopped
2 tbsp. minced shallots
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tbsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. all- purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. minced fresh basil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees° F. Lightly butter four 8 oz shallow ramekins.
To make topping, in a small bowl, combine butter, breadcrumbs and ½ cup cheese. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 ½ teaspoons salt and penne. Cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Pasta is done when it is slightly chewy to the bite or al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Toss pasta with truffle oil and set aside.
Prepare sauce while pasta is cooking. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden 3-4 minutes. Stir in shallots, garlic and thyme and cook for one minute. Whisk in flour and cook 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add half and half and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until sauce slightly thickens, 4-5 minutes.
Add salt, pepper and remaining 2 ½ cups of cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove pan from heat and fold in basil and pasta. Divide into individual baking dishes. Top with reserved breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and top begins to brown.
Let sit 5 minutes before serving.
bacon recipe courtesy of: Tillamook Cheese, 4175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, Oregon 97141