Sometimes -- very lucky times, indeed -- you find yourself with a house full of kids and grandkids having so much fun playing in the snow that afternoon turns into evening and, while wet jackets and mittens and shoes bang around in the clothes dryer, everyone decides to stay for dinner. If that happens, and you have nothing prepared, you'll be glad you stored this recipe for baked three-cheese bow-tie pasta in your recipe box. It's a mac and cheese made easy, combining low-fat ricotta and cottage cheese with just enough nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano and a buttery bread crumb topping. Toss together a side salad for the adults; then, with dinner under control, get out of the kitchen and have fun with the kids.
1 lb mini farfalle or other dried pasta
8 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
8 oz fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 cup panko or dry bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray, and set aside.
Bring a large pot with 6 quarts of water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, and let cool slightly.
While the pasta is cooling, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, nutmeg, egg, salt and pepper. Stir together with a rubber spatula, then add the pasta and stir well. Pour the contents of the bowl into the casserole, and distribute evenly.
In a small bowl, combine the panko (or bread crumbs) with the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Sprinkle this mixture over the pasta. Cut the butter into small pieces, and dot the top of the pasta here and there with the butter.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Then uncover, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the top begins to brown lightly.
Serve hot. Can be made ahead and frozen, then reheated in a microwave or 350F oven.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese
Slow-roasted tomato macaroni and cheese
Whole wheat macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and thyme
Pasta with kale pesto, shrimp and tomato
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Broccoli mac and cheese, from White on Rice Couple
Stovetop avocado mac and cheese, from Two Peas & Their Pod
Chorizo mac and cheese, from Simply Recipes
Mac and cheese with roasted chicken, goat cheese, and rosemary, from My Baking Addiction
Chipotle macaroni and cheese with bacon, from Homesick Texan
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