A few weeks ago I went back to Nonna’s in College Park. I’d only been once before for the Feast of Fonzo-that ultimate tasting experience of Italian food and wine. It was a spur of the moment trip-and definitely worth it.
We started off with an order of the Meatballs as an appetizer since they were so fantastic at the Feast. And they are still fantastic. Served in marinara, the two oversized meatballs were moist and seasoned perfectly. Plus, I love the fact that they are served as an appetizer.
For my entrée I got the Tuscan Mac n Cheese. I know, it seems recently that I’ve been talking a lot about Mac n Cheese, but holy cow this one took the gold. Really, sorry Grandma, but this one beats the Mac n Mayo. It even beats the old blue box, which for the record is the ultimate hangover cure. Here’s what got me-the olives. Apparently Kalamata olives are commonly served in the dish, but this was new to me. Combined with the slightly spicy Italian Sausage and buttery breadcrumbs, it opened my eyes to a new style of Mac. So, I did what any good personal chef would do-I tried to recreate it for a client later in the week.
Here’s my recipe:
Tuscan Inspired Mac n Cheese
1 Pound Pasta*, cooked
6 Tbsp Butter
1 Pound Italian Sausage, sliced into rounds
4 Tbsp Flour
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Assorted Italian Cheese, Shredded*
½ Cup Kalamata Olives, chopped
¼ Panko Breadcrumbs*
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Melt 1 Tbsp Butter in a saucepot. Add Sausage and cook until brown, stirring often.
Remove and reserve Sausage. Do not rinse pot.
Add 4 Tbsp Butter to pot and melt. Slowly stir in the Flour until combined. Next, slowly drizzle in the Cream, stirring constantly to incorporate the cream. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring often.
While whisking, add in the Cheese about ¼ cup at a time. Do not add more cheese until all cheese has melted. Bring mixture to a bare simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
Remove from heat. Add Olives and reserved Sausage. Toss with cooked Pasta and place in a 9x13 pan.
Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter and combine with Breadcrumbs. Sprinkle mixture over the top of the Macaroni.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until crust is brown.
*Use whatever pasta you like-I used Ziti. And yes, I’m aware that this is called Mac n Cheese, but have a little fun.
*Your choice of cheeses-I used a mixture of Mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago.
*You can find Panko at your local grocer-it’s a Japanese style breadcrumb made without the crust.
One last note about Nonna’s: I’m officially calling it my fav Italian food in Orlando. I’ve always loved the old house ambiance, and the servers were all very nice. One quick note that the meal was a “relax, have wine and eat lots of food” experience-meaning don’t go if you’re in a rush. I also wanted to mention the wine list with it’s excellent selection of those Italian favorites!