If you like mac and cheese, give this hardy version a try with rotini, meaty mushrooms, and plenty of fresh mozzarella to make it rich, earthy, and satisfying. Using half-and-half provides the right balance between thinner milk and heavy cream, still adding creaminess to the dish without as much fat.
Two cups of half-and-half may seem like a hefty quantity for the amount of pasta and mushrooms, but as the dish bakes, the cheesy cream sauce absorbs into the other ingredients. Don't be surprised if you see it bubbling up around the pasta before settling back down into the dish.
Letting the pasta rest about five minutes after baking allows any sauce left in the bottom of the dish to continue to absorb into the pasta and mushrooms. The result is delicious.
8 oz dry rotini
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling dish
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
12 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups half-and-half
2 large fresh mozzarella balls (about 8 oz), sliced into small chunks
1/2 cup shredded provolone
1 tsp dried oregano
chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the rotini in boiling, salted water until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and most of the juices have been absorbed, 7-8 minutes.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss with the mushroom mixture.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the half-and-half and bring to a light simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and add the mozzarella chunks a few at a time. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil an 11 X 7-inch baking dish.
Add the mozzarella sauce to the skillet with the pasta-mushroom mixture and stir well to combine. Turn the mixture into the prepared dish and scatter provolone on top. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Bake uncovered 35-40 minutes, until the top begins to brown and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.