BLENDED 5 CHEESE PASTA adapted from Ree Drummond  serves 8

1 pound fusilli (or desired shape)
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
2 teaspoons chopped FRESH thyme
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated white Cheddar
1/2 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
FRESH ground sea salt AND black pepper, to taste
1 cup mozzarella balls, quartered
3 green onions, sliced thin and separated (greens are for garnish)

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add the pasta and cook for 1 to 2 minutes less than the package instructions.
    Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain and set aside.
  • Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • With a slotted spoon remove bacon pieces to paper toweling to drain and remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Add butter to melt.
  • Add the thyme, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the cream and heat until bubbly, 30 seconds.
  • Gradually add the fontina, Cheddar, Romano and Gruyère in handfuls, letting each melt into the cream before adding the next cheese.
  • Add the pasta to the skillet along with a good pinch of salt and pepper and half the bacon pieces, tossing everything together, thinning with the reserved pasta water as needed.
  • Divide the pasta into 8-ounce individual gratin dishes or 1 baking dish.
  • Place casserole on a baking sheet.
  • Divide the mozzarella pearl pieces over the top of the pasta.
  • Position oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to broil.
  • Broil 3-4 minutes on the center rack until the mozzarella pearls are brown and the pasta is bubbling.
  • Remove and garnish with the remaining cooked bacon and sliced green onions.

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