Baked Shells with Fontina and Parmesan Bread Crumbs

I was talking to a friend the other day, and I was informed that he had NEVER HAD HOMEMADE MAC N CHEESE. Poor, deprived child. My mom never made the stuff growing up either, but I devoured it at potlucks and team dinners where my friends’ mothers would bring nice normal American food like baked pasta dishes. (Our family supplied dumplings or friend rice, which wouldn’t be fully appreciated until I got to TJ and suddenly nearly everyone around me was either Asian* or loved Asian food.)

I don’t know much about cheeses and still don’t really because I bake way more than I cook, but when I do make something savory, there is an 80% chance it has cheese in it. So to those of you who are lactose intolerant – I’m sorry. I would truly be lost without cheese and ice cream in my life.

Despite my affinity towards all things cheesy, the original recipe for this was a little too heavy (I know, I know, didn’t think it was possible…) so next time I’m going to replace half of the heavy cream with half and half, and also use slightly less cheese; the changes are reflected below.

*The Asian thing has been in the news since I was a freshman, although the percentages for this year’s incoming class of 2016 are really kind of obnoxious. One friend posted a Facebook status along the lines of “If the person sitting to your left is an Asian male and the person sitting to your right is an Asian male, there is a high probability that you are in the TJHSST Class of 2016.” LOL

Recipe: Baked Shells with Fontina and Parmesan Bread Crumbs


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shells
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 7 oz Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray set aside.
  2. Dice 4 tablespoons of the butter, and place in a large bowl. Warm the cream and half/half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina. Set aside.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, add the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.
  4. Stir the shells into the bowl with the butter. Toss to coat well.
  5. Add the warm cream and Fontina, and stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sprinkle over the pasta.
  8. Dice the remaining tablespoon butter, and dot the crumb topping with small pieces of butter.
  9. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Number of servings (yield): 4-6


Adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop

5 thoughts on “Baked Shells with Fontina and Parmesan Bread Crumbs

  1. Mmm! I tried making mac & cheese at home before but it wasn’t so good.. probably not the right kind of cheese. I will need to try this out, it looks too good!

  2. I love this recipe from Italian Vegetarian cookbook but can’t find the cookbook this afternoon– thanks for supplying the recipe. I agree that it’s better a little less rich than written. You’d think a vegetarian cookbook would be healthy but our ideas have evolved a little even since it was published.

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