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Three Cheese Mac and Cheese w/ Prosciutto & Leeks inspired by The Big Chili

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto and Leeks
One of my favorite types of books to read are cozy mysteries (or cozies). Although I've enjoyed almost every cozy I've read, I tend to gravitate towards the foodcentric ones. Weird, huh?  I credit Diane Mott Davidson and her Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery series for introducing me to the genre. A few more of my favorite culinary cozy series are the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke, the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle, the Wine Country Mysteries by Ellen Crosby, the Savannah Reid Mysteries by G.A. McKevett, and the Gourmet Girl Mysteries by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant. I also enjoy the Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries by Jane Cleland, but they are't culinary centered.

Obviously I love the foodie-type ones. I mean, have you read the title of my site? Anything that combines two of my favorite things (food and books) is a-ok in my book...did you catch my post about joining the Foodies Read Challenge this year? Well, as a part of that, I'm hoping to introduce you to even more reads for you or the foodie in your life over the course of 2016.

I bet you can guess where I'm going with this. Mmm I wanted to share a new cozy mysteries series. One one of my weekly library sojourns, I spied a cozy called The Big Chili by Julia Buckley, and on the cover it said "first in a new series". I hate starting in the middle of a series, since really they all do connect and relate to each other. There are often references of past mysteries solved that will ruin the previous books for you if you haven't read them already. And if I pick up a book and find out it's the 7th in a series, it totally bums me out. I mean, if it sounds good enough, I'll go hunt down the ones before it and begin, but if my library doesn't have it in right then and there and I need a book to read...well...

So yeah, this book kicks off the Undercover Dish Mystery series, which I think is going to be a good one. In a nutshell, our heroine is Lilah Drake, a young 20-something college grad who secretly provides the residents of her small town with homemade meals that they pass off as their own. The mystery in this series debut comes about when one of her dishes is used to poison somebody. She jumps in to help solve this murder to clear both her name and the name of the person who people think made the dish.
The Big Chili by Julia Buckley
It was fun, fast-paced, and introduced some characters that I can't wait to get to know more in future books. Plus, there was a ton of food. She even included some recipes at the end of the book. If you've hung out here at all in the past, you probably know that I tend to develop and/or share recipes based on the books I read 95% of the time. This book had my belly rumbling many times along the way, but I chose to make something that was mentioned right at the start on page 2...

"I had made a lovely mac and cheese casserole with a twist; finely sliced onion and prosciutto baked in with three different cheeses for a show-stopping event of a main course."

This wasn't one of the recipes in the back of the book, but it was fairly easy to put a spin on mac and cheese since it's a favorite in this house. So, grab a copy of the book and tuck in to it and a dish of this pure comfort food next time you have some time to yourself. You won't be sorry.

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto and Leeks
Three types of cheese, prosciutto, and leeks combine to make a pan of pure comfort food in this rich, decadent version of macaroni and cheese.
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Three Cheese Mac and Cheese w/ Prosciutto & Leeks
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Keywords: bake entree side nut-free soy-free sugar-free cheese leeks prosciutto

Ingredients (serves 12)
  • 16 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 of a large leek (white and light green parts only), cleaned and thinly sliced (~1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, rolled and sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 7 ounces Kerrygold Aged Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 7 ounces Kerrygold Skellig cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish that is safe to put under the broiler. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook cavatappi 8-9 minutes (or according to package directions) until al dente; drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add leeks and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the prosciutto and cook until it starts to crisp up, 2-3 minutes longer. Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir until no dry spots remain.

Stir in milk in a thin stream and then add the salt and pepper. Bring to boil over medium-high, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Toss all of the cheese together in a bowl.

Remove milk mixture from heat and stir in 12 ounces of the cheese mixture (just over half).

Combine cooked pasta and cheese sauce. Pour half into prepared dish. Sprinkle with a 1/2 of the remaining cheese, then repeat.

Set in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to broil and broil 3 minutes, until top is lightly browned.

You can use pretty much any type of cheese that you like, so go ahead and mix it up if you don't have these three kinds. Just be sure to have 22 ounces total.
Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto and Leeks