Pasta and Cheese: Making the Perfect Match
The possibilities for flavor-rich pasta and cheese pairings are truly endless.
"It may surprise you to hear that the possibilities for flavor-rich pasta and cheese pairings are truly endless," says David Kos, a member of the Panera Bread® Food Team. "In fact, nothing is really off the table." In other words, you can take a page from traditional cookbooks, or you can take inspiration from combinations that play off more surprising culinary influences.
Panera's new Pesto Sacchettini, tender purselike pasta filled with a blend of six cheeses, puts a unique spin on traditional stuffed pasta. The addition of Monterey Jack and cheddar enhances the flavor profile of ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, and mozzarella.
"This same unique variety of cheese would also taste great in homemade vegetable lasagna,” suggests David. Substitute the six-cheese blend for plain mozzarella in your favorite recipe.
Need more ideas for great pasta and cheese pairings? Follow this simple advice:
- Fresh, creamy cheeses (like ricotta, mozzarella, and goat cheese) work well in baked dishes or stirred and melted into light tomato-based sauces.
- Dried, crumbly cheeses (like Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, and ricotta salata) are delicious shredded or crumbled over pasta right before serving.
To get you started, here are a few flavorful matches to try at home.
- Toss feta, roasted spring vegetables, and Greek olives with cooked bow tie pasta. Serve at room temperature with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Top with toasted pine nuts.
- Add burrata—a fresh Italian cheese made from a combination of mozzarella and cream—to a light Roma tomato sauce. Swirl a couple tablespoons of olive oil into a hot pan; then add seeded and diced tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cheese to taste and let it melt into the sauce. Add fresh basil and ground black pepper and serve the sauce hot over your favorite cooked rotini or penne noodles.
- Top cooked mushroom ravioli with an Alfredo Gorgonzola sauce. Take your favorite recipe for a traditional Alfredo sauce and add a small amount of Gorgonzola and fresh baby spinach. Heat until the cheese melts and the spinach is wilted. “A little bit of cheese will give you a lot of flavor,” says David. “The intensity of the Gorgonzola is a wonderful balance to the more subtle tastes of the mushrooms and spinach.”
- Shake up your favorite baked macaroni and cheese recipe by adding a sharp aged Vermont white cheddar to the dish. This cheese melts beautifully, says David, and adds a sharp counterpoint to any basic sauce. It’s the flavor star of Panera’s own Mac & Cheese.