Baked Ziti and Fontina

Baked Ziti and Fontina
1 pound ziti                           
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided                                
1 cup heavy cream                                                                  
2 cups buttermilk                                          
2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese                              
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
Fontina Valdostana 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a deep baking dish. Cut 5 tablespoons of butter into tablespoon portions. Cut remaining 3 tablespoons of butter into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 3 minutes of al dente. The pasta is going to continue to cook in the oven, so you don’t want to overcook it. Drain, add 5 tablespoons of butter, mix well and set aside.

Warm the cream and buttermilk in a small pan on low heat.

When the pasta is ready, pour in the warm cream and buttermilk, and fold in the Fontina until it starts to melt. Add the grated nutmeg, 1 cup grated cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the pasta mixture into the buttered baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Scatter the 3 tablespoons of cubed butter over the top. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned. When ready, sprinkle fresh parsley over the top, and serve hot. 

Valle D'Aosta, Italy

Fontina (DOP) is made in the Valle D’Aosta region of northern Italy.  It is the smallest region in Italy, with neighboring France and Switzerland, and surrounded by the Alps, green valleys, fresh water streams, and lakes. All of these elements are significant to the cows that roam free most of the year, except the coldest months of the year. These cows eat only the greenest grass, flowers, and drink the freshest water from the streams. Therefore, the milk that is produced is the very finest.  Fontina is made from whole raw cow’s unpasteurized milk. It takes about 3 months to age.  Only the perfect cheeses get the DOP seal of approval.  Please don’t mistake imitation Fontina wrapped with a red wax with this fontina from Valle D’Aosta. It doesn’t come with wax wrapper. Though it costs a lot more, it’s worth every bite, after all the Valdostani have been making it this way for over 500 years. 

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