Creamy caramelized onion mac and cheese with Fontina cheese, tender asparagus tips, and tangy fresh marjoram. Jump to recipe.
When you make a living writing about seasonal ingredients, or if you just really like to eat them, early spring can be brutal. Surely you, like me, have had your fill of turnips and rutabagas. Even citrus feels played. Although it’s mid-April and the world is abloom, we bide our time because food grown in the Virginia earth this year just isn’t here yet.
Soon Virginia will be swimming in asparagus – we have a long, completely delicious crop each year. And when it comes, I’ll be ready with this creamy mac and cheese brimming with caramelized red onions, tender asparagus tips, and the tang of fresh marjoram leaves.
Creamy baked Fontina mac and cheese with caramelized red onions, tender asparagus tips, and tangy, herbaceous marjoram.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided
- 1 large red onion , sliced thin
- 3 sprigs plus 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram , minced, divided
- sea salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 6 cups 1 1/2 pounds Wisconsin fontina cheese, shredded
Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter. When melted, add sliced onion, marjoram sprigs.pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes, until onions caramelize.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Blanche asparagus spears for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from water with tongs, immerse spears in ice water and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, drain and chop cooked asparagus into 1 – 2-inch segments.
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and pinch of sea salt. Cook 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to low and gradually stir in fontina, reserving 2 tablespoons.
Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta and fold in caramelized onions and chopped asparagus. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Top with reserved 2 tablespoons fontina.
Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until filling is bubbling and top is golden brown.
Garnish with reserved teaspoon minced marjoram. Serve immediately.