Let’s talk about dinner. If you came here today looking for a healthy meal, you should probably just leave. Because this is not it.
But 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 noodles, 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 he’d like, but this week I decided to just go for it.
A good friend of mine recently sent me a little package 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, California, called Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.
My friend happens to work for the dairy, 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. When I opened the box and saw the cheese sitting there, I was so stoked!
Toma is their most popular, and for good reason. It’s a semi-hard farmers cheese with a texture that 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 they tend to be very mild and don’t really taste like much to me. 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!
This dish is pretty darn simple to put together, perfect for a busy weeknight. 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 with flour), and pile it all together in a baking dish.
Thirty minutes later, you’re in casserole heaven.
Another thing I loved about this dish was the fact that I used the broccoli stems as well as the florets. This is something I’ve only recently started doing, and I’m sad that I missed out on years of broccoli-stem wonderfulness before!
They are super tender and delicious, and I dare say I might prefer them over the heads. And you can choose to use up any leftovers from a steamed, blanched, or roasted broccoli side dish from a previous dinner.
So don’t be scared of the veggies, and definitely use the stems in this recipe. Less food waste, more flavorful nutrition, definitely a win-win.Print
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.
- 1 lb whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed
- 1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, divided
- Pinch salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium heads broccoli
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded Point Reyes Toma cheese, or flavorful jack cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 11-by-13-inch baking dish.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander, rinse briefly with cold water, and then return to the cooking pot. Add 1 Tbsp of the butter and stir to coat the pasta and keep it from sticking.
- Heat the remaining butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the flour to form a paste.
- Add about 1/2 cup milk and stir well to distribute the flour paste and eliminate any lumps. 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 1/4-inch rounds. Break the florets into bite-sized pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the broccoli. 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 stir a bit to distribute evenly. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top, then scatter the Toma cheese evenly on top of that.
- Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking. If necessary, broil for 2 minutes or so to brown the cheese a bit just before serving. Serve immediately.
If you like this recipe, leave us a comment and rating below!
Does your family love pasta night? Here are some more recipes to try:
- Linguine with Clam Sauce
- Pasta with Balsamic Vinegar, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese
- Roasted Poblano and Fava Bean Fettuccine
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Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on January 19th, 2015. Last updated: October 6, 2021 at 10:40 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Raquel Smith
Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).