This indulgent baked pasta was inspired by a recipe in the L.A. chef Suzanne Goin’s excellent A.O.C. Cookbook. We revisit the dish often because it’s essentially a silky mac ‘n’ cheese with endless options for variation—and elevation. And it’s the perfect size for assembling and serving in our 4.5-quart Dutch Oven.
Our version starts with melting Fontina, Parmesan and aged cheddar into a mornay sauce, but you can swap in almost any combination of cheese (we frequently use the odds and ends left over from a cheese platter).
Roasted sweet potato chunks turn the dish into a well-rounded main course, or you could reach for another sweet, starchy vegetable, such as squash or carrots, or add a flourish of florets via cauliflower or broccoli.
Radicchio adds a bitter note to cut through the pasta’s richness, though any other chicory or kale will work in its place.
A big handful of toasted hazelnuts adds earthy crunch, but pecans, walnuts, or almonds will do the same.
Baked Pasta with Sweet Potatoes, Radicchio and Hazelnuts
1½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red onion, halved and cut into ½-inch slices
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2½ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ pound Fontina cheese, coarsely grated
½ pound aged white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup heavy cream
1 head radicchio (or other colorful chicory)—halved, cored and cut into ¾-inch slices
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 pound rigatoni or ziti
Coarsely chopped parsley, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes and onion with the olive oil and season with salt. Scatter the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring a few times, until the sweet potatoes are just tender and the onion is softened and browned in spots, 20 to 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle simmer. In a No.8 Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until lightly golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking frequently, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the fontina, cheddar, half of the Parmesan, and the nutmeg. Stir in the heavy cream and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until almost al dente, then drain. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well coated. Gently fold in the roasted sweet potatoes, onions, radicchio, and hazelnuts. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.