Crab cake-inspired mac and cheese doesn’t have Old Bay Seasoning, but it does have breadcrumbs and four kinds of cheese. Photo by Addie Broyles.

In this week’s food section, we dig into crab cakes. Not just how to make the regular ones, but how to make them gluten free (pork rinds!), with shrimp instead of crab and how to take the crab cake flavor and apply it to other dishes.

It doesn’t get more decadent than this crab cake mac and cheese.

The dish breaks the “no cheese and shellfish” rule, but I didn’t hear any complaints when I served it at the office last week. With four cheeses, a stick of butter and cream, it’s heavy, so feel free to lighten the casserole with 1 cup cream and 3 cups milk. You can also cut the butter in half without missing it in the final dish.

For more of a kick, double the lemon zest, hot sauce and Dijon mustard. Parsley isn’t my favorite, so I left it out, but a colleague suggested dill, which would definitely invoke the taste of crab cake.

Crab Cake Mac and Cheese

1 (16-oz.) package cavatappi or other spiral pasta
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1 large shallot, diced
Finely grated peel of 1 small lemon
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 Tbsp. white truffle oil (optional)
1 cup panko or dry breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch-by-12-inch baking dish or six to eight individual baking dishes. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Gradually add cream, whisking to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the Swiss, Gruyère, and Fontina cheeses and the nutmeg. Cook until the cheeses melt.

In a large bowl combine the crabmeat, shallot, lemon peel, hot sauce and mustard, and mix well. In a medium bowl combine the truffle oil, panko, Parmesan and parsley, and mix well.

Add the pasta to the crab mixture. Pour in the cheese sauce, add salt and pepper, and stir gently a few times to loosely combine. The mixture will be soupy. Pour the mixture into the baking dish or into individual serving dishes. Spread the panko mixture over the top. Gently pat down.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the panko topping is slightly browned and the pasta mixture is bubbling at the sides. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 10 to 12.

— From “Southern Cooking for Company: More than 200 Southern Hospitality Secrets and Show-Off Recipes” by Nicki Pendleton Wood (Thomas Nelson, $26.99)