Can we talk dinner parties for a moment?
When I think of dinner parties, I think of a prettily decorated table, a 5-course meal, and plenty o’ wine.
There is just something sophisticated and a bit fancy about the term “dinner party.” They can also be a bit stressful, though. I mean, not only are you required to wipe the 5 inches of dust off of your ceiling fan above the dining room table, you also have to search Pinterest for adorable printables to adorn the dessert table, press your linens, and did I mention plan the menu?
Personally, I like to keep things upscale, but simple. Classic recipes that everyone loves, with a sophisticated twist are always a hit. I want my food to be approachable.
I mean, you guys, I live in the middle of a corn field. If I tried to serve seared tuna on a bed of micro greens with wasabi foam, people would just up and leave. Or call me a doctor. Either way, the dinner party would be a failure.
My people like simple food. Cracker Barrel asked me to share a cheesy recipe with you that really highlights their cheese and I instantly knew I was going to make a stepped up version of macaroni and cheese. Everyone loves macaroni and cheese, but it can easily be dressed up or just left alone.
Don’t get me wrong. The blue box of mac n’ cheese will always have a huge place in my heart. It’s a regular dinner side dish in my house. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for a dinner party, though.
I grabbed a couple of shallots and some prosciutto and set out to make the most delicious cheesy pasta I could. This one is such a winner.
I loaded the cheese sauce with a bit of Gruyere and a whole lot of rich, authentic Cracker Barrel cheddar. When you’re making a special dish, you always want to use the best ingredients that you can afford, and Cracker Barrel is not only an award winning cheese, it’s also reasonably priced.
I hope you guys will give this recipe a try, whether it’s for a special dinner or just as a side dish for a random Tuesday night meal. The prosciutto and shallots really take things over the top and the creamy cheese sauce is sure to please your whole family.
My favorite part, though? The way the cheese oozes out of the rigatoni with each bite.
This recipe will easily feed 10 adults as a side dish. You can halve the recipe if you don’t need that much, but keep in mind that this reheats in the oven just beautifully! Make sure to check out Cracker Barrel on Blogher.
Cheesy Rigatoni with Crispy Prosciutto and Caramelized Shallots
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 12 ounces prosciutto
- 2 shallots
- 8 tablespoons butter divided
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces Gruyere grated
- 12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar grated
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and melt.
- Slice the ends off the shallots and then slice the shallots in half. Thinly slice the shallots, lengthwise.
- Separate and add to the pan with the melted butter. Cook shallots, stirring often, until browned, but not crispy, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for one minute less than the package directions state.
- While the water is heating, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay the prosciutto out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until deep brown and beginning to curl up. Remove from the oven and place prosciutto on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
- Reduce heat of the oven to 350 degrees.
- To make the cheese sauce, add the milk and cream to a small pan and heat over low heat to warm. Do not bring to a boil.
- In a large sauce pan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and whisk to combine over medium heat, cooking for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk to the flour mixture, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Continue stirring until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
- Crumble the prosciutto into the cheese sauce, stir in the shallots, and add it to a large bowl with the cooked pasta. Stir to coat.
- Add pasta to a 9x13 baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
- For best results, reheat leftovers in the oven.