Ingredients1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) thin (pouring) cream
300 g (10½ oz) elbow-shaped pasta or ditalini
100 g (3½ oz) cloth-bound farmhouse cheddar cheese, grated
50 g (1¾ oz) smoked gouda, grated
50 g (1¾ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
100 g (3½ oz) smoked leg ham, diced
1 spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
25 g (1 oz/½ cup) thinly sliced chives
125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) duck fat
60 g (2¼ oz/1 cup) panko breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, grated using a microplane
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
zest of ½ lemon
4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and coarsely chopped, plus extra to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Grease a 20 x 15 cm (10 x 6 inch) baking dish. Simmer the cream in a saucepan over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. (A good tip to prevent the cream overflowing when simmering is to place a metal spoon in the pan during cooking.)
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente — a little bit toothsome, but not chewy.
- Strain the pasta, then add to the pan of reduced cream. Cook for a further 4–5 minutes, stirring to coat the pasta with the cream. Now add all the cheese and stir to combine. Cook until the cheese has melted and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Stir in the ham, spring onion and chives; the mixture should be creamy, cheesy, steamy. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
- To make the topping, warm the duck fat until melted, either in a saucepan or a microwave. Place the remaining topping ingredients in a bowl, pour the melted duck fat over, then gently massage the fat into the ingredients, until the texture is coarse, like sand.
- Evenly cover the pasta mixture with the topping. Bake for 10–15 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and crunchy. Sprinkle with extra thyme, then spoon and serve.