So if you came here today looking for a healthy meal, you should probably just leave. Because this is not it.
If you came here looking for a tasty meal, read on!
AJ loves noodles. Every week when I’m making the menu I ask him what he wants for dinner that week, and he invariably says he wants “something with noodles.” I can’t blame him – I love them, too – but I think I’d lose about half my readers if I posted a pasta recipe every single week. So we don’t have them as often as we’d like, but this week I decided to just go for it.
A good friend of mine sent me a little package this Christmas that was full of cheese. There was a hunk of blue cheese, a block of cheddar, and a wedge of this here Toma cheese. It all came from a very unique dairy in Marin County, CA, called Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. She happens to work for the dairy and the family that owns it part time and has been preaching the wonders of their cheese for such a long time, but I was unable to find any to buy in my area. So when I opened the box and saw the cheese sitting there I was stoked!
The Toma cheese is their most popular and winningest cheese, so I hear, and for good reason. It’s texture is definitely reminiscent of Jack cheese – super creamy and awesome for melting. The flavor, however, is somewhere between a jack and a cheddar. It’s amazing! I’m not usually a huge fan of jack cheeses because to me they don’t really taste like much. But this one? Suuuper big fan. I really could not stop stealing little handfuls of the stuff as AJ was shredding it. So much yum!
So this dish is pretty darn simple. All you do is cook some noodles, char the broccoli, whip up a quick bechamel (which sounds scary but is really just simmering some milk), and pile it all together in a baking dish. 30 minutes later you’re in pasta-bake heaven.
Another thing I loved about this dish was the fact that I used the broccoli stems, as well as the heads. This is something I’ve only recently started doing, and I’m sad that I missed out on years of broccoli-stem wonderfulness! They are super tender and delicious, and I dare say I might prefer them over the heads. So don’t be scared and definitely use the stems in this recipe.
Charred Broccoli Pasta Bake with Toma Cheese
An easy and delicious pasta-bake recipe featuring charred broccoli and Point Reyes Toma cheese. A quick bechamel pulls it all together for a delicious family meal.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- 1 lb whole-wheat penne pasta
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 ½ Tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk
- big pinch salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium heads broccoli, with stems
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 2 cups Point Reyes Toma cheese, or flavorful jack cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 11×13” baking dish.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse briefly with cold water, and then return to the cooking pot. Add 1 Tbsp of the butter and mix to melt and distribute.
- Heat the other 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots and sautee until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for about 30 seconds, then mix in the flour to form a paste.
- Add about ½ cup milk and mix well to distribute the flour paste. Whisk in the remaining milk, then simmer while stirring almost constantly for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat.
- Slice the stems of the broccoli into ¼” rounds. Break the florets into bite-sized pieces. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, then add the broccoli stems and florets. Cook over high heat for about 6 minutes, tossing often, until slightly charred in places.
- Mix the broccoli in with the pasta, then transfer to the baking dish. Pour the béchamel over the noodles and mix a bit to distribute. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top, then distribute the Toma cheese evenly on top.
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. If necessary, broil for 2 minutes or so to brown the cheese a bit. Serve immediately. Enjoy!