The original inspiration for this recipe came from one which is attributed to Gino D'Acampo. Mine isn't exactly the same as his, as his calls for thick ham and different cheeses. However, I think the spirit of the thing was similar - and the result was really delicious.
I had booked this one in for Thursday last, when I was going to be working. As it turned out, it got bumped along until Good Friday but it would indeed have been a very good dish to have cooked on a day when you'd been busy all day.
The usual approach I'd had with "pasta & cheese sauce" recipes in the past, has been to make a white sauce and melt the cheese into it. Not so with this one! Because it's a conglomeration of four cheeses, you take a pack of cream cheese and gently warm it (subsequently loosening it) through. Mixed with a little milk, it quickly becomes a creamy cheesy sauce. Add some gorgonzola, cheddar and ultimately, parmesan - and your dinner has become cheese-tastic without the need for any white sauce making.
The only drawback I found with this method, was that during the eating, the pasta became a little "claggy" as the cheese cooled and set. I had served it on warmed plates - but I'm thinking that perhaps being served in a warmed bowl where it would maintain its heat better would do the trick. Of course, then you've got the problem when serving, of keeping the crusty bit uppermost - but I'd definitely prefer that to it going claggy as it cooled!
SPIRALI AL FORNO (Four cheese & bacon pasta bake) Serves 4
500g spirali pasta (or penne)
200g full fat cream cheese
70g gorgonzola cheese (I used closer to 100g), chopped
70g cheddar cheese (again, I used closer to 100g), grated
a gammon steak, diced
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
50g grated parmesan
salt & pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180deg C/gas 4.
2. Place the gammon into a frying pan and cook until starting to brown lightly. Reserve in a warm place.
3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and place back in the saucepan.
4. Add the gammon to the pasta.
5. In the gammon pan, add the butter, soft cheese and heat through gently. Add the milk gradually and use a whisk to ensure a lump-free sauce.
6. Add the gorgonzola and cheddar and mix well with a wooden spoon until melted and creamy. Check the seasoning (add a good quantity of pepper), add the parsley and pour over the gammon & pasta.
7. Mix through and place into a baking dish. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy.