I imagine this dish was created on a faraway Swiss alp by a farmer’s wife who just put together a meal with what she had on hand: potatoes, pasta, onions, cheese, milk or cream, and apples. Älplermagronen is a hearty dish. It hits the spot after a hike in the mountains and is satisfying on a cold winter evening.
Recipe: Älplermagronen (Swiss Mac ‘n Cheese)
2 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 – 1″ cubes
1 lb penne pasta
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp butter or oil
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyère, Appenzeller, Raclette, … something aged and a bit stinky)
1/2 cup milk or cream or combination of both
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 375° F. Set a large pot of salted water (approx. 5 liters) to boil.
Heat butter/oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan. Add onions and fry them until golden brown.
When water is boiling and while onions are frying, add penne and potatoes to the salted water. Stir to make sure pasta doesn’t stick together. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain penne and potatoes.
Combine milk/cream with salt and pepper.
In an ovenproof casserole dish, place 1/3 of the penne-potatoes, sprinkle with 1/2 of the grated cheese. Make another layer with 1/3 of the penne-potatoes, sprinkle with the other 1/2 of the grated cheese. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the penne-potatoes. Pour the seasoned milk/cream evenly over the top. Spread the browned onions on top.
Bake covered for 10-15 minutes until steaming hot and cheese is melted. Serve with warmed applesauce.
Älplermagronen can easily be prepared a day ahead and heated for 30-45 minutes in 375° F oven (cover to prevent onions from burning) to serve.