penne with tomato, cream & five cheeses

This is like a cross between your best mac & cheese and your favorite baked ziti.  Only it’s tastier than either one could ever be.  And, even better, it’s quick and easy.  Once it goes in the oven, it’s ready in ten minutes.  But don’t take my word for it.  Try this one at home.  You won’t be sorry.  

The original dish premiered at Al Forno’s, a well-established trattoria in Providence, Rhode Island.  This slight adaptation got my attention while scrolling through pasta recipes on Food52, where it is mentioned that Al Forno switches this up seasonally.  They’ve been known to add asparagus and lemon zest to the mix or maybe some radicchio and shitake.  Imagine making this with pumpkin and pancetta for a new addition to your fall rotation.  Then there’s always the popular broccoli rabe and sausage combo.  Oh, the possibilities.

The pasta is par-boiled.  Then mixed in with the most amazing collection of cream, tomatoes, basil and cheese.  That’s it.  Transfer to a large baking dish or a collection of smaller ones and you’re ten minutes away from enjoying your new favorite baked pasta.

Okay.  I hear you.  This isn’t for those folks who are limiting their calories and fat intake.  But once in a while isn’t so bad, right?  They say moderation is the key.  And this one really is worth the splurge.

It’s important to bake this in a large enough dish so that you have a shallow layer measuring about one inch.  You’ll have enough to fill a large baking dish plus one or two small gratin dishes.  Or two medium-sized dishes.  Or six to eight small ones.  You decide what works for you.


penne with tomato, cream & five cheeses

Adapted from Cucina Simpatica: Robust Trattoria Cooking by Johanne Killeen & George Germon

Servings 6 to 8 servings


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes in heavy puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely shredded fontina cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 500°F.

  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

  3. Combine all ingredients, except pasta and butter, in a large bowl.  Mix well.

  4. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes.  Drain in a colander and add to the mixture in the large bowl.  Toss to combine.

  5. Divide the pasta mixture among six to eight shallow ceramic gratin dishes of 1 1/2 to 2 cups in capacity.  Or place in a shallow (1-inch) layer in larger baking dishes.  Dot with butter.  Bake until bubbly and brown on top, about 7 to 10 minutes.

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