I love blue cheese, but occasionally find that it can overpower a dish with its pungent flavor. But after appreciating its modest contribution to last week's buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese, I was ready to give it a starring role.

One of my favorite versions of macaroni and cheese in San Francisco is made by Solstice, a restaurant and bar in my neighborhood. One taste of the creamy, steamy, slightly sharp mac — which is foiled by tart green apples and toasted walnuts — and all of the day's problems have vanished.

Since I've enjoyed it so many times at the restaurant, I took a stab at recreating it in my own kitchen. My attempt wasn't too bad, although I decided next time I'll make a few variations to the béchamel, which are noted below. Curious to see how I made it? Find out after the break.

Gorgonzola and Apple Macaroni and Cheese

Gorgonzola and Apple Macaroni and Cheese

Gorgonzola and Apple Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts
1 pound elbow macaroni
3 cups bechamel sauce*
8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled or finely chopped
10 ounces grated jack cheese
2-3 Granny Smith apples
Salt
Pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place the walnuts in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 7 minutes. Once cool and hard, finely chop in the food processor to a fine dust. Set aside.
  3. Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until pasta is tender but not quite cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain; transfer to very large bowl.
  4. Prepare béchamel or, if made ahead, reheat. Add gorgonzola and jack cheeses and stir until combined and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the cooked pasta.
  5. Mound mixture into 13x9x2-inch baking dish, or 10 individual 6-ounce ramekins. Bake at 350ºF until hot and bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
  6. Just before serving, dice green apples. Top macaroni and cheese with walnut dust, then garnish with a mound of freshly diced apples. Serve immediately.

Serves 10.

*Recommended for an ultracreamy consistency: Modify the béchamel by using cream instead of milk, and reducing the flour by 2 tablespoons.