Gourmet

Spiced Apple Mac and Cheese

Inspired by a traditional kugel, this recipe incorporates the sweet flavors of apple and brown sugar; spice from star anise, cinnamon and allspice; and savory creaminess with mascarpone and Fontiago cheeses.

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Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound apples, about 3 medium
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 8 ounces mini ziti pasta
  • 8 ounces Wisconsin mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, plus more for garnish
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) Wisconsin Fontiago Cheese, shredded
  •   powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions

Prepare spiced apple compote by peeling and coring apples. Chop into small pieces. In skillet over medium heat, melt butter and 5 tablespoons brown sugar; add chopped apples, star anise, cinnamon sticks and allspice berries; let mixture simmer gently. Apples will soften and melted sugar and butter will slowly evaporate.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook just until al dente) according to package directions. Drain the noodles well and set aside.

Once apples have reduced in volume to about 1 1/2 cups of compote, with consistency of loose fruit preserve, remove pan from heat. Remove and discard spices; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking dish.

In large mixing bowl, combine mascarpone with sour cream, beaten eggs, remaining brown sugar, salt and vanilla; stir just to combine. Add cooked pasta to cheese mixture along with apple compote; mix until pasta is thoroughly coated with cheese mixture and apple compote is well distributed. Pour pasta mixture into prepared dish and sprinkle with grated Fontiago.

Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake, uncovered, for another 20 minutes or until top is browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature and garnish with powdered sugar dusted on top and dollop of sour cream, whipped cream or Crème Fraîche.

Tip: Left to cool down a bit, or refrigerated, the baked noodles firm up and become more dense. You can cut a piece and pick it up to eat with your hand.

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Semi-soft and semi-hard cheese, like Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Mozzarella, should be very cold for easy grating.