I think we all have those restaurants that we occassionally get a huge hankering to order takeout from that just can't be satisfied until we place that order. The Cheesecake Factory is definitely one of those restaurants for me, I think mainly because when I want something extra delicious I know that any meal from there will be ultra satisfying. Which is why I just knew I had to try and perfect a copycat version of one of my faves.
I know a lot of people whose favorite menu item is the four cheese pasta. With penne pasta tossed in a garlicky tomato sauce seemingly infused with both creamy and sharp cheeses, then topped with the creamiest ricotta dollop (and loads of fresh basil), this dish hits the spot. Thankfully, this copycat version tastes nearly IDENTICAL (I made sure to get the takeout version so I could do a side-by-side taste test), is light, so quick, and so easy!
Starting off with the sauce, which is definitely the most important part of this recipe, you'll just need a few ingredients to make the tomato base, then the four cheeses to incorporate into that. For the tomato base you'll need:
Each ingredient is light, but this sauce tastes spot on in comparison to the CF original!
Once you have your ingredients handy, making this tomato base could not be easier. All you need to do is:
You'll instantly be so excited by how herby and delicious your kitchen smells, and the best part is, while the sauce is simmering you can cook the pasta! One important thing to note, for any pasta that will finish cooking for 1-2 minutes in the sauce, I make sure to drain it when it is just al dente to ensure it won't be overcooked. In terms of the shape, I used penne to match the CF, but use whatever shape you like!
Once the tomato base for the sauce is simmering, and the pasta is boiling, it's time to mix together the four cheeses that will be incorporated into the tomato base. For this you will need:
Another thing I love about this recipe is the different cheese consistencies. Once added to the tomato base, the ricotta adds creaminess, the mozzarella that classic cheesiness, and the paremsan and romano that texture in every bite!
Once you have your cheese ingredients at the ready to finish the sauce all you'll need to do is:
When I was making this, I was pretty darn close to drooling at this point. As long as you keep stirring over medium low heat, the cheese begins to melt into the tomato base, and perfectly thicken up the sauce. One interesting thing about the CF original is you can't necessarily "see" the four cheeses, as I believe they're incorporated into the sauce like they are in this version!
Now I don't know about you, but when I'm making an at-home copycat version of a recipe, I really think I need to trick my brain a little further by making it look just like the original version as well, and this recipe does just that, all by:
Now that's a copycat if I do say so!
I had so much fun developing this recipe (and not just because it gave me an excuse to order the original as takeout one night!) but because it just goes to show how delicious and satisfying a homemade version can be. Here's why you need to make this:
Can I use a different type of tomato other than crushed tomatoes?
When trying the original version, I noticed that the tomato sauce was not entirely smooth, and did have some texture to it from the tomatoes, which made me think they were crushed. That being said, if you only have sauce, it shouldn't change the flavor much!
Do I have to add the eggs to the cheese mixture?
I know it sounds a little strange, but the eggs help thicken the sauce and break up the texture of the ricotta. If you don't want to use eggs, I would recommend adding a splash of milk to the larger cheese mixture as well to lighten it up.
What if I don't like ricotta or can't find romano, can I substitute other cheeses?
I wouldn't recommend skipping the ricotta all together. I promise you can't notice it once it's incorporated, and feel free to skip the dollop! If you don't have mozzarella, fontina would work great too. If you can't find romano or don't have any on hand, feel free to double up on the parm, or perhaps grab some shredded provolone.
One night soon when you want something incredible for dinner (and are potentially craving takeout too) whip up this four cheese pasta that is a fun copycat version of a classic favorite.
This four cheese pasta Cheesecake Factory copycat is so cheesy and delicious, ready in 30 minutes, and tastes exactly like a lightened up version of the saucy and satisfying takeout original.
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