“Gruyère is a hard yellow cheese, named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, and originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne. Before 2001, when Gruyère gained Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status as a Swiss cheese, some controversy existed whether French cheeses of a similar nature could also be labeled Gruyère. (French Gruyère style cheeses include Comté and Beaufort.), whereas holes are usually not present in Swiss Gruyère. Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex. When fully aged (five months to a year) it tends to have small holes and cracks which impart a slightly grainy mouthfeel.” (via Wikipedia.com)
Gruyère has been one of my favorite cheeses recently; I go through stages with different favorites pretty frequently. There are so many to love! I like Gruyère because it is full of flavor, and I enjoy it alone as a snack or as an ingredient in recipes. I came across a macaroni and cheese recipe in the March 2011 issue of Country Living magazine, tried it out, with a few changes, on my boys, and they all gave their approval by eating seconds! Here’s my version, using cavatappi pasta. It’s rich, it’s totally different than my other incredible macaroni and cheese recipe (find it HERE) and would be lovely to serve to friends at a dinner party. You could do a dinner based on more sophisticated versions of childhood favorites!
Creamy Cavatappi and Gruyère
One pound box of Cavatappi pasta, or large elbow macaroni
3 cups (about 12 oz) grated Gruyère
3 cups half and half
4 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 TBS butter, melted, plus more to spread on foil
Dried or fresh parsley to sprinkle on top, if desired
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat and cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain and rinse pasta with cool water. Drain again and toss with 2 2/3 cups Gruyère. Salt the pasta, to taste, if you like, or allow each person at the table when you serve the final dish to salt their own portion. This is what I did, allowing us to each use our own preferred amount of Kosher salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together half-and-half, egg yolks, red pepper flakes, and 3 tablespoons melted butter.
Pour over pasta and stir to combine. Transfer to a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
Cover with buttered aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup Gruyère, and bake until top is golden, 20 to 25 more minutes.
(NOTE: the red pepper flakes will impart a bit of spicy heat to the dish, so if you don’t want that, they may be omitted.)
I hope that you’ll pull this recipe out sometime when you’re looking for something unique for a special dinner. I believe it would be good, as well, with mild white cheddar replacing some of the Gruyère, and would make it a bit more economical to make. It would change the flavor a bit, but I think it would be great! Let me know if you try that; I’d love to hear your results. Have fun with it!