Penne with Basil and Ricotta and Crispy Pine Nut Topping
Think of this casserole as mac and cheese for adults. Ricotta adds extra creaminess to the sauce, and pine nuts make the breadcrumb topping extra-crunchy.
1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, then drizzle with 1 tsp. oil. Keep warm.
2. Preheat broiler. Coat 6 1/2-cup ramekins with cooking spray, and place on baking sheet.
3. Heat 1 1/2 tsp. oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in flour until paste forms. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until sauce thickens. (If sauce becomes too thick, add a few spoonfuls of water.) Whisk in ricotta, then gradually whisk in 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in fresh basil, and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. Stir penne into sauce. Spoon heaping 1/2 cup penne mixture into each prepared ramekin.
4. Combine remaining 2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil, pine nuts, panko breadcrumbs, and dried basil in bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Sprinkle each ramekin with 1 Tbs. pine nut mixture. 5. Broil ramekins 2 to 3 minutes, or until topping turns golden brown.