- Coarse salt
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta
- 4 slices day-old oat or whole-wheat bread
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, grated (2 cups)
- 1/2 pound mild white cheddar cheese, grated (3 cups)
- 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated (3 cups)
- 1/2 pound fontina cheese, grated (2 cups)
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (do not use preground)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 8 minutes; pasta will be slightly undercooked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
- Pulse bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form (about 2 3/4 cups).
- Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, 9 to 10 minutes. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.
- Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons pancetta drippings in pan. Melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat with drippings. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring to coat, until they are light gold and beginning to crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. (Do not let milk come to a boil.) Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to butter, whisking until smooth. Add milk, slowly, whisking constantly until combined. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add cheeses, and stir until melted. Stir in reserved pancetta, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pasta in a 9-inch-round baking dish that's 3 inches deep. Stir in cheese sauce 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Spread breadcrumbs on top. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until crumbs are deep golden brown and sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.
The curves of cavatappi pasta, which is shaped like corkscrews, hold creamy sauce particularly well; similar shaped cut pasta, such as shells and fusilli, may be substituted. Have the butcher slice the pancetta 1/4-inch-thick to make quick work of dicing.