Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese – toasted, mostly.Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
January 20th is Cheese Lovers Day. When we think cheese, we think Tillamook. This farmer-owned dairy co-op from Tillamook, Oregon, has been producing award-winning cheese for over a century.
Below is a decadent recipe from Tillamook Cheese Cookbook for a snowy or rainy winter day: Cheesy Pasta & Lobster Bake. (Click through here to learn more about this century old co-op, here to find Tillamook products near you, and here for more mouthwatering recipes.)
Cheesy Pasta & Lobster Bake: Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese is not just a weeknight classic. The rich and creamy cheese sauce and decadent lobster make this a fancy dinner party favorite!
1 pound lobster meat, cleaned, chopped
7 1/2 tablespoons Tillamook butter, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1 1/4 cups shredded Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded Tillamook Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound packaged, dry gnocchi shaped pasta
Nonstick cooking spray
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 teaspoons chopped green onions, green tops only
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
For the béchamel sauce, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Slowly add the flour, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and, with a wire whisk, gradually add the half-and-half. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened, stirring often. Remove from the heat, and add 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, the garlic, 3⁄4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted and well combined. Cover and reserve.
Fill a large pan with water and the remaining salt, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the pasta, return to a boil, and reduce the heat to a low boil. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, to the al dente stage. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the béchamel sauce and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Stir until well combined. Reserve.
Combine the Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a large bowl.
Spray a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place one-half of the pasta in the baking dish. Top with half of the mixed cheeses. Top with the other half of the pasta, followed by the remaining mixed cheeses. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is visibly bubbling and hot.
While the pasta is baking, combine the remaining butter and the lobster meat in a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, or until the lobster is heated through. Remove from the heat and add the bread crumbs, green onions, paprika, basil, and thyme. Toss lightly to combine.
Remove the dish from the oven and evenly spoon the lobster mixture over the top of the pasta. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
Return the dish to the oven. Allow to broil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
(Submitted by Ann Jones. Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Contest, Regional Winner, 2005. Cook-Off Location: Denver, Colorado. Photo above and video below from Tillamook Cheese.)