skillet-baked-pasta-with-five-cheeses Recipes

skillet-baked pasta with five cheeses

September is like gateway or fake fall, appropriate considering that the season exists officially for only one-third of it. But October — and especially so this year, ushered in with a week of gray rainy (which I just typed as grainy, also somehow fitting) weather — almost without fail sets off the following things in the following order:

* I spy the season’s first interloper.
* All of a sudden the children need to wear socks again and there are no socks anywhere. Ever.
* I spend approximately one week extoling the virtues of cardigan weather before I remember it’s here to stay until June of next year and worry that I chose poorly.
* We get all Fall Cute and plot afternoons of apple picking, hayrides, corn mazes, apple cider doughnuts, leaf peeping, posing for pictures in pumpkin patches and pretend we do it for the kids.
* I immediately crave soup, chili, roast chicken, caesar salad, grilled cheese sandwiches and hearty baked pastas. Let’s waste no time getting to that last part.

what you'll need
ready to bake

I spied these baked shells with five cheeses on Tasting Table* a few months ago from the team behind Emily (wood-fired) and Emmy Squared (Detroit-style) pizza** restaurants and I loved the story behind the dish. The Hylands went to Al Forno in Rhode Island on their first date in 2001 and ordered the famous “pasta in the pink” — a bubbling pasta gratin with a creamy tomato sauce and abundance of cheese — and fell in love. This was their attempt to reverse engineer it. When done right, it pulls off two feats, a good charred edge of sauce around the dish, everyone’s favorite part to scrape off with a fork, and enough of the sauce leftover in the dish that you want to swoop a piece of bread through it.

skillet baked pasta with five cheeses

I haven’t had the original — although honey, if you’re reading, this is a hint — but from studying it in great detail online, I’d say that this version is less rich (it uses milk, not cream, and not two cups of it either) but it’s not a negative. I like that it doesn’t have the gut-busting richness of baked ziti, macaroni and cheese or even a vodka sauce but contains nods to each with a zippy uniqueness from a garnish of scallions.*** You’re not making a bechamel or browning meat or doing anything fancier than mixing the sauce cold in a bowl and pouring it over, which makes it ideal for weeknight meal on a chilly day. It bakes in a skillet, which maximizes the crispy lid geography, and those smallish shells nestle together and create interlocking swirl shapes as you cut through them, probably not the most important part but completely pleasing to me nonetheless.

skillet baked pasta with five cheeses

* The title of the article, by the way, is particularly amusing if you also binged on Transparent Season 3 this weekend, especially given that this recipe was published in May 2015

** We recently went to Emmy Squared and like everyone else, fell in love with the wild combinations and gloriously frico-ed edges of the square pizza, the kindness of the staff (we had 5 kids at our table, is all I’m saying) and the vinho verde on tap (hiii). The starters were as good as the pizza itself, so rare but also dangerous as this definitely ensures you’ll be too full to eat all the pizza you’ll want to or perhaps brilliant because then you get leftovers. Regardless, it makes a good argument for trying their non-pizza recipes at home.

*** One of my favorite ingredients, I almost always have scallions in the fridge. What are the things you always have in your fridge that might not be considered staples to most people? I love hearing about stuff like this.


One year ago: Broccoli Cheddar Soup and S’More Cupcakes
Two years ago: The Crispy Egg
Three years ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Four years ago: Spaghetti with Broccoli Cheese Pesto
Five years ago: Apple and Honey Challah
Six years ago: Single-Crust Plum and Apple Pie
Seven years ago: Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
Eight years ago: Balsamic-Glazed Sweet and Sour Cippoline, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, Best Challah (Egg Bread) and Mom’s Apple Cake
Nine years ago: Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers and Peter Reinhart’s Bagels
Ten! years ago: Fougasse + Rustic White Bread, Flower Cupcakes and Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Spring Chicken Salad Toasts
1.5 Years Ago: Carrot Graham Layer Cake and Wild Mushroom Pate
2.5 Years Ago: Three Bean Chili
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
4.5 Years Ago: Over-The-Top Mushroom Quiche

Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Time: 30 to 40 minutes
  • Print

This is adapted from Matt and Emily Hyland’s version shared on Tasting Table, which was inspired by Al Forno restaurant’s famous “Pasta In The Pink” dish.

As I mentioned above, to me, this is less rich and luxe than the Rhode Island original, which seems to use more like 2 cups of cream instead of 1 cup of milk. Would you like yours to be more rich or saucy? Try splashing in a little cream to taste, or swapping all or part of the milk with heavy or light (half-and-half) cream. As written, it is saucy but not quite in the puddling way described.

Because I know many people will ask, you can of course swap and or all of the cheeses with ones you have or prefer. I think the ricotta would be lovely with mascarpone instead (I find it creamier when baked, uh, because it is), you could parmesan instead of pecorino (but I so love a salty funky aged pecorino here) and you could use another cheese for the blue, which I know is divisive. I adore blue cheese (this is our current favorite) but the first time we had this, found it very distracting and thought I might use something else in the dish next time. By the third round of leftovers, however, I was hooked and now wouldn’t want it any other way.

I didn’t use the rosemary suggested but I might add a few chopped leaves of basil next time stirred right into the pasta, which I’ve seen is part of the original recipe.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound small-medium pasta shells (mine were 1 inch when dried, I used these)
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) ricotta
  • 1 cup coarsely grated fontina (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated mozzarella (about 3 ounces
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano (about 3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup mild blue cheese, crumbled (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes from a can
  • 1 cup whole milk (see notes up top for adjustments)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or 6 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly at an angle

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until very al dente, a full 2 minutes shy of whatever your package says. Try a piece of pasta — it should have a toothsome bite to it because it will continue softening in the oven after this. If it’s still crunchy, however, continue to boil the rest of the pasta for another minute.

Heat your oven to 500 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large bowl, combine the five cheeses. Scoop out half and set aside. Whisk milk and tomatoes in the half of cheese left in the large bowl. When pasta is drained, add it to the bowl and stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in any herbs you plan to use.

Coat the sides and bottom of a 12-inch cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet with olive oil. Pour the pasta and sauce in. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until the top is bubbling and golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. If it’s not brown enough for your tastes, run it under the broiler for 1 minute.

Top with scallions and dig in.

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169 comments on skillet-baked pasta with five cheeses

  1. I don’t know how you knew my cheese-hating husband is out of town for the next week, but bless you. (Scallions: totally a fridge staple, along with cilantro. They often go together to finish all sorts of dishes in my kitchen.)

  2. SallyT

    I always have lemons in my fridge – not so esoteric, but true – I’m not the biggest fan of the bite of scallions, but they’re in my fridge currently in prep for tomorrow night’s dinner, polenta with shrimp.

    1. Me neither. I could never stomach scallions since pregnancy. Hello aversions. I’m thrilled to the gills with the idea of pasta is a skillet, is this a 37 year old birthday present? And yes, I’m posting on a food blog on my 37th birthday. Must mean I have young kids in bed. Way to celebrate. Okay, off to eat another piece of cake.

  3. Katharine

    I always have miso in the fridge thanks to you–the sweet potato and broccoli bowls are on weekly rotation here, sometimes with tofu, always with gratitude!

    1. Niki

      Those sweet potato broccoli bowls are ridiculous. We don’t talk while we eat that meal in our house, we’re too busy inhaling it. YUM.

  4. No need to reverse-engineer: the recipe for the Al Forno original is in Cucina Simpatica, which is still in print.

    I have made the Al Forno recipe many times, to much acclaim. I usually cook it in a quiche pan, not a skillet. It’s very rich – not an everyday dish by any means – but memorably delicious.

    1. deb

      They say they wanted to do their own spin on it, more from what they remembered, although the reasoning is vague. From TT: “They worked from memory, rather than from one of the cookbooks by Al Forno’s owners (another couple), Johanne Killeen and George Germon, because food, like love, sometimes demands you forge your own path, even while looking to others for guidance.”

      1. Pen Fox

        I’m all for the love and inspiration that comes from trying to reverse engineer a restaurant dish. In this case, though, it really is worth trying the Al Forno recipe as written in the Al Forno cookbook, at least once. I have been fortunate enough to dine at Al Forno many times, and the recipe in the Al Forno cookbook tastes very much like the version in the restaurant. The best part, if you follow the advice to not overfill the baking dish, and if you dot the surface with slivers of butter, is the crispy charred edges of pasta that stick up from the bubbling pasta.

        The Al Forno cookbook also has a terrific asparagus and lemon version (for those early April days in the northeast when you’re longing for spring weather but still wearing sweaters).

  5. danamariescott

    I am from Rhode Island and have had the original al forno dish. It’s delicious!! They do cooking classes there too where you can learn their secret recipes.

  6. Erin


    This looks so delicious (well, all the recipes always looks so good)! :) My husband usually likes dishes with some sort of protein involved. Do you think you would over flavor this by adding in sausage of some kind? Or would it be too rich? If not, when would you recommend adding it to the recipe? Thanks for your help!


    1. deb

      You could add some browned-up sausage meat, mixing it in with everything else. I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind either (and I learned recently he reads all the comments so guess I’ll be trying it soon).

  7. Cary

    Always have shallots, many cheeses, plain yogurt, lemons, limes. I might not always have onions, but when cooking for two a shallot is just right size!

  8. sarah

    Can you suggest a substitute for fontina? I want to make this tonight and I don’t have any fontina. I have a fully loaded cheese drawer except for that. Would swiss be too weird?

    1. deb

      Try it or you could just use more of all of the others. I am pleased with your description of “a fully loaded cheese drawer.” I would like to move in.

    1. deb

      I did and I thought it might be a fun project for me and the big kid one day but I also read that it’s probably not, like, an effective way to make sure you always have scallions around. Have you?

      1. Julie Chase

        I do this all the time and it works, but too slowly for my scallion addiction. It takes about a week to get enough of the green tops to use in cooking.

      2. sparkgrrl658

        i mentioned elsewhere that i tried this and didn’t like the results, the biggest issue being onion stink in my kitchen. every time i got near the glass it just grossed me out. they do grow quicker than most other things you can re-grow from scraps, but you’d really have to get a lot going and be diligent about it to give you enough if you use them for anything more than a little garnish.

        i think most of those re-grow projects are fun, but not actually useful like people make them out to be. (like regrowing lettuce, for instance. totally works, is fun to watch, is edible, but not enough for a salad for even one person. it’s not like you’re awash in fresh greens and never have to buy a head of lettuce at the store ever again.)

    2. Susan

      When I do this I don’t chop them off first, I just stick the whole bunch in the water as soon as they come home. The existing ones stay fresh for weeks and I just use up whichever are the tallest and let the new ones slowly grow to full height. It doesn’t work if you have a recipe where you need to use the whole bunch but if you only use a few a week the timing works out well.

      1. Sylvia B

        I always plant my bunch of shallots into a pot near my back door as soon as I buy them. Maybe I have an advantage over apartment dwellers because I live in a house but I used to do it when I lived in an apartment with a balcony. When they are cheap I buy a couple of bunches because they just keep growing until you want them. I must say tho’ I always use all of the plant white & green (not the roots) why do you only use the green part?

  9. Brittany W.

    I always have goat cheese in the fridge! We, too, had to go on a baby sock-buying binge yesterday and my husband was “appalled” (his words) that we did not have warm socks for our son on the first cold day of the year.

  10. Katy Belle

    Yum! Cheese!
    My weird staple in the fridge is broccoli. I almost always have it in the fridge, and always in the freezer.

  11. Susan

    Cheese. So many cheeses. We probably have 5 different cheeses in our fridge right now although probably not the right combo for this recipe (DARN, more cheese to buy). Also avocados because you can put them on everything, if you are me.

    I do always have scallions but I keep them on my kitchen windowsill in a glass of water – the rare ‘magical kitchen hack’ that has seriously changed my life. They don’t regrow forever but I find it much more easy and economical to buy a new bunch every 6-8 weeks and use a few at a time for recipes than to be constantly buying a new bunch, using 2, and then letting them get yucky in the fridge until I need more a week later.

  12. I always have a tube of grated ginger in my fridge. I make a lot of curries and stir fries and having having it there and ready to go is such a time saver for me. I also keep a tube of tomato paste because although it’s a little more expensive, most recipes only call for a tablespoon or two at a time and this way I don’t have to worry about a 4 oz can going bad. Since I’ve gotten pregnant chipotle hot sauce has been in constant rotation, specifically the Cholula brand. Turns out I like smokey heat more than sweet or savory heat.

    I’ve been slowly making my way through the baked pastas you’ve posted throughout the years making one pan for dinner and one pan for the freezer. This will probably just get eaten.

      1. Katie

        San Marzano (I think that’s the name? The same people that make those fancy canned tomatoes) makes a double concentrated tomato paste in a tube and it is LIFE CHANGING. IT’S SO GOOD! You’ll never use another brand of tomato paste.

  13. Gary

    Fresh ginger, fresh mushrooms, and a variety of peppers are a must for my fam. Probably the strangest thing I try to keep on hand is homemade China Moon Chili Orange Oil, from Barbara Tropp’s China Moon cookbook.

  14. Janice

    Thanks to my husband, I always have Virginia country ham in the fridge. It can substitute for bacon, prosciutto, ham, guanciale, etc. . . . I think it would be lovely added to this recipe! Thanks, Deb.

  15. Celeste

    I always have extra sharp cheddar. It’s the house favorite. It can spark up a lot of mild things, and it can be salvation on a cracker when the diners are ready before the dinner is.

  16. Elizabeth

    This is very, very similar to Ina Garten’s recipe for five-cheese penne, which I love but haven’t made in years. Looking forward to trying it with milk instead of cream (who needs cream with all that cheese?) and adding scallions (because I’ve never regretted adding scallions to anything, ever)! I like to use campanelle pasta because the cheese oozes right into those trumpets (and they’re so pretty). Yum!

    1. Lexi

      Ina’s 5-Cheese Penne is also based on the Al Forno recipe. She and Johanne are good friends. Ina also does a great version of Al Forno’s Sausage and Grapes recipe!

  17. briarrose1987

    I’m going to have to sit on this one for a few weeks; no blue cheese allowed for a pregnant lady and nothing mimics the taste enough to be worth it. I had to weigh in on the weird pantry staples, though. I have to have sriracha and Frank’s in my fridge at all times. No, they are not interchangeable! I also had seven kinds of vinegar at last count (although the plain white is mostly for cleaning and egg boiling) and absolutely refuse to run out of any of them.

    1. Elizabeth

      A restaurant near me keeps a bottle of special sauce on every table, and it is addictive. Upon inquiry I learned that the special sauce is a 50/50 mix of Frank’s and sriracha. I now keep a bottle of Frank’s, a bottle of sriracha, and a bottle of what my husband and I call “Fraracha” on hand at all times!

    2. JP

      You can have blue cheese if it’s heated above 160 degrees and eaten while hot! Listeria is killed by heat. Unfortunately the only thing that I want is a bagel with cream cheese and lox, and the idea of hot lox is revolting.

    3. sparkgrrl658

      i have a whole tray of hot sauce on the counter, and several vinegars too!

      regular franks, franks buffalo, franks chili lime, all five flavors of cholula, sriracha, a really hot local hot sauce, pineapple pepper sauce, louisiana hot sauce, and jerk style hot sauce. …plus a tube of harissa in the fridge.

      we aren’t even those types that put hot sauce on everything, it’s just that when i do i like to have a variety. i also like to use a mix when i make sauce for wings, which now that football season is back on, is the most requested meal :)

      1. briarrose1987

        I have more hot sauces than I let on haha. There’s also chili garlic sauce, a little tupperware container with chipotles in adobo, gochujang, and a new obsession thanks to Blue Kitchen, Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp. My husband’s friend also makes his own red pepper flakes and those are my secret “put a tiny pinch in everything” stash. I kind of have a problem…

        1. sparkgrrl658

          haha, we have that too! the chili garlic paste, the sweet chili sauce, the chipotles (another fridge staple i forgot to mention in my original comment somewhere…), crushed red pepper flakes and a second crushed red pepper flake that is extra spicy (from penzeys). and four kinds of fresh chiles in the fridge currently…man, i didn’t realize until i read your reply how much spice we have around, lol! it’s just so good.

          i’ve had gochujang on my grocery list for like a month, really want to try it. i now have to google the spicy chili crisp too :)

  18. Buttermilk powder is a staple in my fridge, and guessing that it is not for most people. Or maybe I’m wrong?
    Anyway, this pasta looks wonderful, thanks so much Deb! I adore fall.

  19. Mimi

    Can’t believe nobody commented on your sweet sweet adorable little darling singing a happy morning song. Thanks for sharing…. :-)

  20. My husband is not big on pasta, but I think this could make a convert out of him.

    My fridge/pantry staples: plain Greek yogurt (can sub for so many things: buttermilk, ricotta, oil, cream cheese, cream, milk, just to name a few), lemons, red wine vinegar, Frank’s, and recently, the giant tub of grated Parmesan cheese from Costco (not shredded; it is clear with a black lid, don’t remember the brand)

  21. Julie Chase

    I always say that scallions make everything better. There’s quite a few staples in my house (bags of egg noodles, tuna) but none so prevalent than fresh lemons and jars of capers. This is partly due to my husband’s obsession with chicken piccata, but mainly because what CAN’T fresh lemon juice/zest do?

  22. I say, when you go out, you forget calorie counts and just enjoy. But at home, on a regular basis, that is the route to disaster. So a more moderated version for more-frequent home use is logical. This sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to try it.
    Re ingredients: scallions are unheard of in France. The best I can find are fresh onions with green stems, but the bulbs are big and fat. This, and the dearth of Mexican restaurants in my town, are the worst parts of living in France, to tell the truth.
    My always in the fridge staples: shallots, red peppers, cilantro, hot peppers (both from the sweet Moroccan lad at the market), tomatoes until quite late because we are spoiled–even in our pathetic “garden” we have them until Christmas.
    Re children and socks/shoes: my own had a period of refusing to wear closed shoes until January or so. This led to discussions with the teachers, but we were able to escape as “those crazy Americans.” Seriously, whose toes want to give up their freedom?

  23. Kimchi, miso, homemade sichuan chilli oil, douban paste – all permanent fixtures in my fridge. Bookmarking this so I can make it next week when I am sick of (Canadian) Thanksgiving leftovers.

  24. Dafni

    Hello!! Thank you for all the delicious and mouth-watering recipes!! I am a real fan of cheese but not that fond of tomatoes! Do u think it would be ok to omitt the tomatoes or what would be a clever way to replace it? Thank you in advance!

  25. Vicki W.

    Scallions, yes! Cilantro, of course! And fresh ginger, because you can’t make teriyaki sauce without it, and then how will you get the broccoli into the children?

  26. Miche

    I always have:

    white miso + some other type

    Chinese black bean sauce (from a jar, not homemade because I love the simplicity of just opening a dang jar and not making everything from scratch)

    instant dashi granules

    a hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino romano (maybe everyone has this?)

    also scallions

    fresh ginger


  27. Avocados and believe it or not, broccoli! Even if I don’t plan on making something with it, I usually crave it roasted (or grilled in warmer weather) at some point during the weekend. When my 11-month-old gets a few more teeth, hopefully we’ll convert her to become a broccoli fiend as well!

    1. niki

      Broccoli is the best! My husband said he never knew it could taste so good until he met me and I roasted it for him. Growing up my mom sauteed it with a ton of garlic in olive oil and tossed it with linguine, tons of parm on top. Still one of the best cheap meals you can make.

  28. I always have fresh applesauce in the fridge. My husband always gets a Costco amount of apples every week (I love them, more than ever now that I’m pregnant), and I use 5-6 to make applesauce. That way, I can justify weekly baked goods by subbing half the fat with applesauce. Also, oatmeal and applesauce, brie and crackers with a bit of applesauce, and ok I sound like an old lady.

  29. Leann

    I am very curious, what brand is a good “mild blue cheese”? I have gone to my cheese counter in search of that very thing. They always reply, “No blue cheese is mild.” Not the answer I want! So I am eager to see what you use. Thank you!

    1. sparkgrrl658

      you might try cambazola – it’s like a blue cheese-brie hybrid. you won’t be able to “crumble” it, but just add some globs around. it’s so good. i only learned about it this year. i used it in deb’s red potato tart!

  30. There’s a Food52 “Genius Recipe” based off of the Al Forno dish as well! Such a great back pocket recipe.

    Fridge staples:
    scallions also!
    cilantro–i think we may disagree here
    ginger (though technically I slice this up and throw it in the freezer for easy access)
    extra sharp cheddar
    Chinese black bean sauce
    tomatoes (yes, even out of season ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
    pickles galore
    …among other things. Fridge real estate is serious business around here.

  31. Love reading all the fridge/pantry staples! My constants are: garlic, sriracha and eggs. I also almost always have frozen corn tortillas, avocado and lemons. As I’m single and living alone that often means fried egg on a toasted tortilla with avocado and sriracha is dinner many nights of the week.

  32. Katherine

    My 4 year old daughter does NOT like cheesy noodles. Have I failed as a mom? Where did I go wrong?? I will have to save this for date-night-in.
    My fridge always has real maple syrup. I start to panic as it gets low. And black olives, cuz my girl will eat those all day long :)

  33. Caren

    I thought this sounded so good and couldn’t wait to try! And then I realized I’ve essentially been making it for years from Ina’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook :) It’s beloved by everyone I have served it to!

  34. JP

    This pasta bake looks very tasty, but the idea of going out and buying 5 types of cheese, when all I have is parmesan and some Colby/Jack is sort of frightening to the bank account. Nonetheless, this is the sort of thing I also crave come the first winds of Autumn. That and baking cookies which I just finished. That’s how I know the seasons have officially changed.

    As to nonstaple items in the fridge most folks might not have, I always have “maple” syrup (I make my own), preserved lemons (also homemade), minced garlic in the jar (so quick and easy), chutney (home canned). I have a door full of condiments, etc. and never seem to have a lot of room in the refrigerator because almost everything these days (even soy sauce) has to be refrigerated upon opening. sheesh!

  35. Nicole

    Roasted tomatoes are always in my frig. Because those + whatever cheese + whatever greens are left + grain from my freezer (I double when I make a batch) is my lunch on most days. And jarred ginger and minced garlic, and anchovy paste. I know, sacrilege, but helpful on busy nights after work!

  36. Deanna

    My baked pasta trick of the decade (which I got from Serious Eats who got it from Ideas in Food) is to soak pasta rather than boil it. I mostly like that it saves on dishes, but it also means if I know I want baked pasta for dinner I can start soaking the pasta in the morning and when I get home it’s just a matter of mixing with the sauce and baking.

  37. Kimberly

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE baked pasta!!! This looks and sounds amazing! Will have to try it over the weekend, but may have to play around with a substitute for the ricotta. Unfortunately, neither my husband or son likes ricotta. Regardless, definitely going to give this a try! :)

  38. CJ

    For “mild blue cheese” you can look for dolcelatte (sometimes called gorgonzola dolcelatte.)

    Weird pantry staples… I prefer to always have a container of labne around, and I always have the four kinds of chocolate (white, milk, bittersweet, unsweetened) because I never know when the urge to make sweets will strike.

  39. Zara

    Was thinking this afternoon that I needed to make something cheesy, as I have all sorts of cheese in my fridge to use up.. And then this shows up on my feed. Meant to be! Very delicious and decadent. I used ricotta, romano, parmesan reggiano, mozzarella and gorgonzola. I also added some diced pancetta that I crisped up before. Definitely did not salt the sauce after the addition of pancetta/parmesan. I also don’t have a 12″ cast iron so I used my 10″ with no issues. Served it with some arugula dressed simply with oil and balsamic. Just the best comfort food with a glass of vino!

  40. Ashley

    Staple: lemongrass! It keeps for weeks and makes any sort of curry, steamed mussels/clams, or marinated Thai-style chicken thighs so much better. Probably other things, too, that benefit from a bit of citrus. Also, bourbon, which gets me through all the times when cooking is a chore and the dishes pile high.

  41. Jane

    If I hadn’t just pigged out on Mac and cheese over the weekend I would be ask over this. Because it’s pretty much 5 cheese Mac and cheese Deb :) Looks delicious.

  42. Kelly

    My all time favorite recipe from SK is the pasta with veg and bechemel. I always have to sub broccoli+kale because I can never find broccoli rabe. Since I usually double or triple veg in most recipes, it works out fine. This recipe feels like irs lacking veg. Could I add some with success, you think?

  43. There’s usually only me eating in the house, and I’ve had to find ways of not letting things go bad before I use them. I keep 1-cup boxes of pre-chopped mirepois in my freezer (you want it for flavor, not for crunch, in casseroles and soups), and I use frozen vegetables a lot. I’ve given up trying to use up a whole quart of milk before it tries to become yogurt, so I buy the little aseptic packages intended for kids’ lunches, and open one or two as needed. I empty out a partially used can of chipotles in adobo into a small jar, and it’s in the fridge, too. But theres also a jar of the rose’-wine-based syrup I poach peaches in; it keeps pretty well with all the sugar, and I can do about three batches before it needs to be replaced. Peches Melba – poached peaches, raspberry coulis, vanilla ice cream, maybe some amaretti crumbs – is wonderful.

    1. Oh, yeah, and for someone who hardly ever drinks (and then no more than a glass of wine with dinner), I have a whole bunch of different liquors and liqueurs for putting _in_ things (some need refrigeration, some don’t). The weirdest is probably the spiced rum in my famous fruit-salad dressing (with basil), but dark rum in desserts with brown sugar, brandy in meat sauces, Kahlua in chocolate things, etc., etc., etc.

  44. Susan

    I always have a tub of mascarpone In the fridge because I can stabilize whipped cream, add it to milk to make a faux heavy cream for sauces..smear on toast or sweeten for muffin icing. Expiration date is far longer than heavy cream.
    I keep lemons, not uncommon, but I use them a lot. Shallots, red pearl onions, scallions (mostly for slicing the green tops. I like them better than chives) Bread and butter pickles. I’ve really come to enjoy them and always have them out when we have sandwiches for lunch. I could snack on them all day!

  45. Susan Iseman

    Love that you have scallions as staples. I almost always have creme fraiche, which I stir into lots of tomato sauce dishes at the end or mix with Greek yoghurt as a basis for a spicy sauce. Always have a wedge of parm reggiano, and our new fav to put on everything is toasted sesame seeds…am I allowed to have three?

  46. This summer a local farm started doing farm to table “DELIVERY”!!! YES!! Anyway, after never having had it before, I always seem to have fennel in my frig! Which I find fascinating, since I do not like licorice, but raw or cooked- fennel does it for me. And I always have lemons and limes in my frig as well. and cheese– :)

  47. I am putting this recipe in a vault to protect so I can make at a later date. Wow, I’m salivating just thinking about it and I love a good story that goes along with a recipe. We may have to evacuate because of Matthew but the first things that go are my computer and favorite cookbook. We’re just visiting here or else we’d have a big problem taking all of my cooking stuff. Have a great day. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  48. adykay2014

    Deb – When I opened this post, the first thing I saw was the hearing aid ad and I thought it was spam, so I deleted the recipe. Then I realized it was just one of your ads, and I went back to it. You may want to re-think the placement of your ads if possible.

    1. deb

      Sadly, I do not place the ads on the Feedblitz email or earn from them. They’re always tasteless. I created an alternative newsletter last year that goes out once a week, is better designed and has only two subtle ad spaces that are within our control — you can sign up in the sidebar or from this page:

  49. Yum! Looks like I will need a cardigan to hide the muffin top if I eat dishes like this! Just an extra mile or so on the treadmill.

    My husband is so cute, he does “grocery shopping”, and comes home with chips, a kielbasa, cilantro, green onions, and thinks shopping is done for the week. He has all the staples covered.

  50. Sarah

    I made this last night and here is my feedback: Nice, real nice. But, next time I think I’ll use the entire can of tomatoes instead of measuring a cup because now I have a pesky, little dab of tomatoes in my fridge that probably won’t get used. But, that’s just me. I used some Danish blue cheese which received negative feedback from my spouse. I liked it but he said too strong. So next time I’ll have to cut back on the blue. I will definitely make this again because it was very good and easy. What’s for dinner tonight? :)

  51. Garlic + Zest

    I’m fairly certain that there’s nothing better than baked pasta – and this one sounds phenom! 3 cups of cheese??? Attach directly to my thighs – it’ll end up there anyway!

  52. Jeanne

    You can nearly always find in my refrigerator: ginger, garlic, cheddar, parmesan, a nice cheese of some variety, plain yogurt, nutritional yeast, pickles.

    The cheese is the most important one.

  53. Clara

    Great quick-ish dinner last night! I added Italian sausage that I broiled while prepping the rest. Will def. make this again..maybe next time with some greens too…

  54. I must say I grew up in Detroit and have NEVER heard of Detroit-style pizza until recently. I had to look up what it is! From what I gather, it’s the version served mainly at Buddy’s Pizza, which I’ve never really liked. More crust than anything else. Give me New York-style pizza any day of the week, but I’m guessing Emmy Squared does a much better Detroit-style pizza than anywhere in Detroit and I’d be willing to give that a go. All that aside, I’m dying to try this recipe. My always-on-hand ingredient: goat cheese. I pick it up whenever I’m in Trader Joe’s whether I need it or not because it’s always at least $1 cheaper there.

  55. Erin

    I made this last night and I’m going to be one of those annoying commenters who goes ‘I changed everything and then it sucked!’ but I report this so others can learn from and avoid my mistakes.
    Mistake 1: I had no small pasta in the house (how?) so I used big shells, the type you’d usually stuff. This made it virtually impossible to bring the pasta and sauce together; instead the shells just kinda sat on top of everything.
    Mistake 2: We wanted something green in there (not fat-phobia, just to cut the richness) so I sautéd some broccoli rabe and stirred it in. Tasted good but made the sauce watery and lumpy. Should have served it on the side.
    Mistake 3: Having no tinned tomatoes (here in Brazil they’re loaded with sugar and salt) I grated in a couple of fresh ones. So the sauce wasn’t really pink and the tomato flavor didn’t meld with the cheeses.

    All of that said it was still actually pretty great – how bad can a fridgeful of cheese melted on pasta be? – but don’t do my stupid things. One bonus good change I did make was to skip buttering the dish and just stir the cheeses and then the sauce and then assemble everything in the dish I intended to bake in – the pan didn’t get gnarly even ungreased and I saved myself a bowl to wash.

  56. Lindsey Deschamps

    My husband loves to cook and has made countless SK recipes. This one is next on the list (especially because our picky eaters will love it!) Somehow, a good cast iron skillet is missing from our kitchen. Do you have any suggestions on brand? Pre-seasoned or not? What is a good all-purpose size? Thank you!

  57. sparkgrrl658

    a.) i think i have too many sassy friends, as i kept reading “honey, if you’re reading this is a hint” over and over trying to figure out what thinly veiled insult-wisdom you were about to impart on us schlubs before realizing that no, you were just dropping a dinner date hint to your husband. (lols ensued.)

    b.) aside-from-the-usual fridge staples? hmm… i think it’s mostly tex mex stuff. cilantro, limes, hot peppers, corn tortillas (for making chips). those things are always in there. also green apples & thinly sliced salami. (impromptu “cheeseboard”!) oh! and your pickled red onions. always have a container of those, with some thinly sliced jalapenos in the mix. (and i will confess i do often have scallions…in some form of becoming slimy mush. i keep buying them and not using them. i did try a couple times to stick them in water and regrow them, but tbh it just made my kitchen stink like onions and it drove me nuts. sorry, landfills, for all the scallions.)

  58. emily

    my kitchen staples include rice vinegar, canned garbanzo beans, more varieties of hot sauce than one fridge should hold, pouches of wild-caught salmon and popcorn (for those horrible days when I just need beer and popcorn for dinner!).

  59. Alexa Boone

    I have the original recipe from Al Forno if you are interested – I have both the cookbook (Cucina Simpatica) and the recipe printouts from their (fantastic!) cooking classes. If there is an e-mail where you’d like me to submit scans I am happy to. :)

  60. Debbi

    My fridge staples are buttermilk, butter, ginger and Parmesan. This recipe looks so good! Will be making this as a trial run for the next weekend my son shows up from college!

  61. Gretchen

    About the only staple you can reliably find in my fridge is wine. Some days, it’s just about the only thing in my fridge. :)

    This recipe sounds delicious and will definitely be going in the Try It! pile, probably for this weekend. It seems like the sort of basic recipe that, when done well, is transcendent on its own, but is also the jumping-off point for a lot of improvisation. My brain is running off on tangents of prosciutto, mushrooms and peas, maybe a hint of sage or nutmeg…

  62. Dahlink

    We always have shallots and fresh garlic (but not in the fridge), a variety of cheeses, capers, and at least one bottle of the house wine.

  63. Barbara

    I love this concept and we are an ever-scallion household (my daughter likes to munch on them) but the cheese was over the top, even for the cheeselovers among us. I took the basic concept (skillet pasta) reduced the cheese by alot, and added one of those gorgeous striped eggplants in the markets these days. So I think ended up with deconstructed eggplant parm. In a skillet.

  64. Sarah

    My weird fridge staple is tofu. It keeps for a really long time, and can be used in so many different dinners, and it’s simple enough my boyfriend can cook something with it and I don’t have to worry about it going rubbery or being undercooked like when he cooks chicken.

    Also, it’s delicious raw on rice. I’m such a sucker for tofu.

  65. Marcia

    If you have ever eaten at Al Forno, you will find these 3 things are true:
    1. They do not take reservations :(
    2. Everything is delicious, and very rich
    3. You will not be able to drive back to NY, you will just want to sleep in your car.

  66. I always (always) have carrots in the fridge. As healthy snack, as ingredient, as general-happy-colour-yay-thing. And mascarpone, because you never know when the need for tiramisu crops up.

  67. Mindy

    So this is going to be another annoying comment where I really used this recipe as more of a guide than an actual recipe, but I am posting in case it’s helpful to others, as I think this recipe is pretty flexible and I think it’s going to be a useful one for me because we eat a lot of cheese and often have a cheese draw full of random leftovers, and this is a great recipe to incorporate those into. I didn’t have a skillet to bake this in, so I baked it in a standard glass 9×13 dish, which worked fine – I reduced the oven temp to 425 and baked it for more like 25 minutes to get it bubbling and crispy on top. I skipped the scallions because I didn’t have any. My basil was moldy and I didn’t have any rosemary, so I used some dried oregano and thyme. I had no blue cheese or fontina, so I increased the ricotta and mozzarella, substituted parmesan for pecorino romano and added some aged swiss and a mixed miilk cheese whose name I can’t remember. I also didn’t have any whole milk, so I used mostly 1% with a little bit of heavy cream. It was a great weeknight dinner, and we will make this again this winter.

  68. We always have crema in the fridge. It’s a product I discovered when I moved to Guatemala, and apparently it’s not for sale in a lot of other countries. It’s a mix between sour cream, heavy cream, and butter. We put it in pasta, sauces, soups, on beans for breakfast, everything! Most Guatemalans would tell you this is the one ingredient they miss the most if they live out of the country.

  69. Gabby

    Always have garlic and onions. I keep several kinds of mustard on hand at all times, and tahini! I also MUST have lemons and limes stocked. Especially because doing tequila shots has become the “thing” we’re known for ending a meal with when friends are over.

    I also always make sure to have a bottle of prosecco in the wine cooler in case we have a sudden need to celebrate!

  70. Mmmm I can’t wait to make this.

    I always have giardiniera and sauerkraut in the fridge. Giardiniera especially gets tossed on pretty much anything when I’m down to the basics and too lazy to go shopping but both work well for that.

  71. Cheryl

    Fantastic recipe Deb. And let me tell you it works with different cheese combinations … ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, blue was what I had. I added a heap of pan-fried mushrooms too as I had them – oh and my shells were enormous ones … but anyway, really delicious. I served it with a rocket (arugula) salad, and because there is only 2 of us, we’ll be eating the same thing tonight. I had it prepped and in the oven in about 30 minutes … and most of that time was boiling the water for the pasta. Perfect weeknight meal. Thank you!

    1. Cheryl

      Oh, things I always have? Lemons, garlic, onions, Greek yoghurt and a stocked vegetable drawer. And in the garden – parsley, mint, oregano, thyme, chives, sage and silverbeet (chard).

  72. Mimi

    I always have English muffins in the freezer and houmous (and oatcakes), chickpeas, 99% chocolate, lemons and limes. Aka breakfast, lunch, chana masala, brownies, rum, whisky sour

  73. charlie

    Always in my fridge:
    Trader Joe’s preserved lemons – perk up practically everything
    Adobo sauce – adds a quick heat and smokiness

  74. Kat

    I always have balsamic glaze (from Trader Joe’s or the like) for drizzling over anything…or everything. Can’t wait to make this!

    Also, I have just purchased my first cast iron skillet! Any tips for care? :)

  75. Pip

    My fridge always contains chorizo – the cured type, not the sort you have to cook first. I use it in anything where you could use chopped bacon, but bacon goes off quickly, and chorizo lasts for ages.

  76. Lizzy

    I just moved to Brooklyn a month ago and I’m so excited that I will finally be able to visit all the restaurants that you use for inspiration! I love that, in addition to all the work you do on your posts, you also took the time to curate a little New York guide on the side. I can’t wait to try all your suggestions!

  77. fiche

    I used this recipe with the following changes. It was super yummy!
    I used a 14oz bag of trader joe’s butternut squash pasta instead. The pasta is shaped like little pumpkin/squash so it has the curvatures of shells, just a few more. It worked out wonderfully.
    I used whatever cheeses we had: mozz, pecorino, parmigiano, and a little sharp cheddar.
    I also used creme fraiche instead of ricotta.
    I had a small can of pureed tomatoes that I had just opened and used just a few tablespoons of, so I used the remainder of the can in this dish.
    I also didn’t measure anything out and just eyed it up. It was super good. I’m sure its great as written as well.

    1. Steven

      I believe this post is conflating two different Al Forno recipes that appeared in “Cucina Simpatica.” The one you’ve based your skillet version on is Penne with Tomato, Cream, and Five Cheeses. Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and others have presented that recipe as well. The other recipe is the “pink” one: Pasta in the Pink with Red-Pepper Puree (in which 4 roasted red peppers are pureed and combined with two cups of cream). It’s similar, but I prefer it to the Five Cheese dish.

  78. Liz

    Hmm… On the obvious side my staples are lemons, eggs, garlic, onions, yogurt, tomato paste, canned or jarred chickpeas, pasta, Parm, and lots of olive oil. On the less obvious side, tahina, pomegranate molasses, plain dark chocolate bars, coconut milk, and homemade stock in the freezer.

  79. Dahlink

    I made this last night with one change. We had a fair amount of leftover grilled eggplant slices, so I lined the skillet with those (including the capers we garnish them with), and then cut the amount of pasta in half. It turned out very well. We agree that the blue cheese is essential to this dish.

  80. Nikki

    I made this tonight, delicious, I used blue cheese, but since you said you found it distracting the first time so I went easy with it, and I used rosemary and thought the slight blue cheese flavor with the rosemary was wonderful!

  81. Ah-mazing! With some ricotta leftover from your squash toasts, I figured I should buy four more cheeses to make this dish, right?! I followed the recipe to the letter, except I used the entire can of crushed tomatoes to make the dish a little saucier. Recommend!

  82. Made this tonight for a debate watching party with friends … It was unanimously the best part of the night. I only made two small changes. I used Gorgonzola cheese and baked the pasta in a glass dish (unfortunately I don’t have a cast iron skillet yet). It was amazing! There were only four of us and there is no pasta left. I served it with a simple arugula salad with red pepper and fennel. Thanks Deb!

  83. Caitlin Haywood Conroy

    Made this tonight in less than an hour as a last minute “what’s for dinner?” before heading out to a concert. (Joan Baez. Angelic.) Used a mish mosh of cheeses, parmesan, bleu, manchego, cream cheese in place of ricotta and something unlabeled but interesting smelling…in a good way. Added some frozen peas on top before baking for color as no scallions in the house. Loved it, big hit. Making again next week for company and adding some diced pancetta. Because bacon.
    Things we always have – shallots. They make me feel cheffy.

  84. This looks so great! I love anything that includes pasta and cheese.

    Not sure if these are weird staples, but we always seem to have an abundance of broccoli and zucchini, different kinds of curry pastes and a bunch of different marmalades I buy while searching for “the one”. Also i have a million bags of toasted almonds – it seems i always think we are out of them when grocery shopping.

  85. rodittis

    This was more like “baking dish pasta with 4 cheeses” for me since I only had parmesan, asiago, ricotta and goat cheese. But it came out great.

  86. francescabruzzese

    Hey I’m from Rhode Island and have dined at Al Forno! So pleased to see the smallest state getting a shout out on here, and, as usual — excellent recipe from my very favorite food blog!!!

  87. Barbara

    I made this using the basil leaves. The only change is I subbed skim milk because I had no whole in the house. IT WAS SO GOOD!!! My family went wild for it. I’d make this again anytime – a true crowd pleaser. Next time I will oil the pan even more because I did have a little too much stickage, so be generous with that oil. Thank you so much for the great recipe!

  88. Emmy

    How do you clean your cast iron after making this? I did a similar cheesy pasta dish recently and my normal techniques of wiping out with a paper towel and scrubbing with coarse salt were not very effective.

    1. Barbara

      Hi Emmy, my normal method of kosher salt + oil to clean the cast iron pan after preparing this dish did not work either. So I wound up lightly scrubbing the pan out with soap and water using one of those curly stainless steel scrubbing things. I tried to use the least amount of pressure as possible, because my pan is very old and I didn’t want to remove too much of the seasoning. Then I dried the pan on the heat, and re-seasoned it. I am not a fan of using water in my beloved cast iron skillet but you gotta do what you gotta do. The dish is so good I’d absolutely make it again, but I would definitely grease the heck out of the pan first, and maybe try the dish right after I’ve seasoned it. (I season my cast iron cookware probably 3x a year with normal wear.)

  89. Lucy Honeychurch

    This was great! I got scared of the blue cheese so subbed Jarlsberg and it tasted awesome. Also didn’t have any fresh herbs so left those out (kept the scallions though), and I did find when I checked after 14 minutes of baking that it was browned and ready. I didn’t have whole milk so I used part 2% and part half-and-half and it was just fine!

  90. Raye

    I made this and it was delicious! I used gorgonzola instead of blue cheese and it was excellent, though I scaled that back and bit and used more fontina plus a bit of parmesan. In my refrigerator I always have buttermilk and fair quantities of fresh lemon, grapefruit, and lime juice, and simple syrup, though I suspect to fellow cocktail enthusiasts these are fairly routine.

  91. ellen

    Deb, I made this last night. It was delicious and a big hit with my pasta-loving 9 year old. For her, I left out the blue cheese and just upped the mozzarella. Just a few notes though about the recipe…ricotta really doesn’t blend in with grated cheese well. I would suggest revising the recipe so that you whisk half the ricotta, tomatoes and milk together and THEN add those to the grated cheese and pasta. Then dollop the rest of ricotta on top after putting on grated cheese topping. Also I used the pasta cooking pot to mix it all – keeping a bit of pasta water in there because I think all pasta dishes are better with some pasta water. Just my two cents!

  92. Tammy

    I made this with parmigiano reggiano, fontina, blue cheese and mascarpone. It turned out well but the blue cheese flavor was quite strong even with the addition of chicken sausage, cooked spinach and an extra cup of crushed tomatoes.

  93. I have a four-year-old and a bad foot, and, since becoming a mother, have ordered a shameless amount of delivered dinners (why does dinner have to come at the END of the day?) since 2012. However, all versions of pasta (favorite food) do not travel well. And a u t u m n is finally, finally here. So I’m trying to cook more, and decided, trying to avoid becoming overwhelmed, to *just cook things* from Smitten Kitchen. (I decided this yesterday.) I made the above last night. I added fresh basil, and used 1 c. whole-milk ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella. (I went to the store to get mascarpone and forgot to get the mascarpone.) It was awesome. Thank you, thank you.

  94. Heather

    For those concerned about having the exact cheese combinations listed, it is worth reinforcing how forgiving this recipe is. I halved the recipe and used a combination of the current cheeses in our fridge–asiago, goat cheese, sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella, swiss, and even some grated cojito–and subbed tomato sauce as I didn’t have crushed tomatoes. I can’t say for sure (yet) whether the dish was diminished by any of this, but I stopped mid-bite no less than four times just to marvel at how good it was.

  95. Bhavna Chauhan

    I always, always have limes in the fridge–and I use them in everything: to mellow the spiciness in a stir-fry or quick curry, or to brighten up a sauce that needs a little somethin’ somethin’. Another must-have you’ll always find in my kitchen: tarragon. It’s a welcome surprise in anything I throw it in.

  96. Marie

    I always have lemons and limes. I used to buy fresh flowers, then decided for the same money – I could always have fresh citrus to decorate with and also use for cooking. So I leave them out in jars and bowls until needed.

    I had a plan to not cook last night and serve leftovers (we have grilled Steelhead and roast beef tenderloin in the fridge), then I went to see what you were up to and scrolled down and saw this. So I called an audible and decided I had to make this because it looked so easy and delicious.

    Since I did not want to shop, I made it with what I had on hand with a couple extras thrown in – family said it was aweseome:

    – used ricotta, parm, and a package of grated ‘italian blend’. Had a 1/4 garlic and herb Boursin cheese in the fridge so I threw that in.
    – used cream instead of milk since we don’t drink milk but had some cream left over from baking.
    – forgot to add the rosemary until the last minute so just sprinkled it on top with the cheese.
    – added chopped fresh spinach to the noodle/cheese mixture just because…
    – hubby brought home some bbq chicken from a work thing so I added that too.

    15 mins in 500 degree oven and it was delicious! And so very very easy. Served with baby kale salad with Ina’s Caesar dressing.

    Thanks Deb!

    1. Marie

      Oh – forgot the blue cheese. I used Salemville Amish 60 day blue cheese crumbles. It was a 4oz package so I just used the whole thing. It must have been mild since it wasn’t at all overwhelming or distracting.

  97. Followed the recipe to a T.
    Here’s what I’d consider altering: I’m a lover of blue cheese but I did not like it here. It felt too cheesy for me (I know it’s sacrelige for me to say that!). I also didn’t like the basil in this… I’d use probably parsley next time.
    While I wouldn’t make it exactly the same again (I’ll probably sub in gruyere or something else for the blue cheese) I would probably add some chopped shallots or peas to add another flavor dimension.
    Cooking times and amounts seemed pretty correct to me! I think the bones of this are great – it’s just finding a combination of cheese that’s right for you!