Ricotta makes a quick baked macaroni and cheese with a light and delicate texture.
1/2 lb (2 cups dry) medium pasta shells/elbows, cooked, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water
12 ounces fresh mozzarella/pepperjack/cheddar, grated
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (full fat is best)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp ground mustard (optional)
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
pinch of mace or nutmeg (optional but highly recommend)
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese
2 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for greasing
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter an 8x8 or 9x9 casserole dish.
In a large pot of boiling well-salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta.
Stir together the shredded cheese, ricotta, black pepper, and desired seasonings in a bowl large enough to hold all cooked pasta and the cheese.
Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and toss well to coat. Add about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, or as needed, to loosen the sauce. Pour the mixture into the buttered casserole dish.
In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta. Dot the top of the dish with the butter cubes.
Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the topping has started to crisp up, 15-20 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil the macaroni and cheese until the crumbs are golden brown, watch close to keep from burning. It should take about 3 minutes. Let the macaroni and cheese cool for at least 10 minutes to firm up a bit. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator.