Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Simple Italian Mac and Cheese + Video

Italian mac and cheese is creamy, full of flavor, and easy to throw together on busy nights. Make this recipe today with just 7 ingredients!

mozzarella mac and cheese in a bowl with a forkful pulled out
This is the ultimate weeknight dinner helper since it’s ready in just 15 minutes.

A simple list of ingredients doesn’t mean it’s lacking in flavor though! It has the perfect blend of gooey sauce and Italian seasoning for a taste that everyone will love.

If you want something a little fancier, try this baked version with lobster and a golden brown topping.

Or, try my recipes for the slow cooker and Instant Pot when you need something a little more hands-off!

butter flour and herbs in a skillet

What To Add To Italian Mac and Cheese

Make this meal more filling or stretch the servings to feed a crowd! Feel free to get creative with your favorite mix-ins and combinations.

  • Vegetables
When there are 5 minutes left on the penne, stir 2 cups of frozen peas or broccoli into the pot. Cover with a lid to bring back to a boil and strain together when done.

Or, stir in a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach after the pasta and sauce have been combined. Let it sit for a few minutes so the spinach can wilt before serving.
  • Protein
After draining the penne, add it back to the pan with some cooked chicken or turkey. You can use up leftover rotisserie or shredded chicken as well since the heat from the rest of the dish will warm it through.

This mozzarella mac and cheese also tastes great with leftover ground beef, sausage, hamburger, or rinsed and drained beans. Navy, kidney, and pinto are our favorites.

cream sauce in skillet

Best Cheese For Macaroni and Cheese

First, shred it yourself instead of using prebagged shreds. These contain an additive to prevent clumping that gives the shreds a waxy texture and keeps them from melting properly.

Next, pair at least one good melting variety with an aged variety for bolder flavor. You can use all mozzarella if you’d like, but I typically mix equal parts of that and provolone.

A little Romano, Asiago, or Fontina will add some interest. Just be sure to use at least 4 ounces of mozzarella for this Italian mac and cheese.

Italian mac and cheese sauce being poured into pasta

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta 
  • Saucepan and Whisk
  • Box Grater - As much as I love buying packaged shreds because I'm lazy, freshly grated cheese melts down better and creates a smoother texture.

FAQ - Common Recipe Questions

Is mozzarella a good cheese for mac and cheese?

Absolutely! Not only does it melt down smoothly, but the flavor is mild enough to go with whatever else you mix it with.

bowl of Simple Italian Mac and Cheese

Can you freeze macaroni and cheese?

Surprisingly, yes! Allow it to cool before transferring to a freezer-safe plastic bag or container. Store for up to 3 months and thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

If you plan to freeze the entire batch, undercook the noodles just a bit so they don’t become mushy when thawed and reheated.

Enjoy!

With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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Mozzarella Mac and Cheese Recipe Video


To see us make this from start to finish, watch the video at the top of this page.



Yield: 6
Author: Donna Elick
Simple Italian Mac and Cheese

Simple Italian Mac and Cheese

Italian mac and cheese is creamy, full of flavor, and easy to throw together on busy nights. Make this recipe today with just 7 ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (2% is good too)
  • 1 pound dry mini penne pasta
  • 8 ounces of Italian blend shredded cheese (*see below to make your own blend)
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (I prefer McCormick Tuscan Style Italian Seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain pasta once it is cooked and set aside. Work on the next step while your pasta is cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat melt butter, add flour and Italian seasoning and whisk for about 2 minutes to cook out the 'flour-y' taste. Add milk and continue to whisk occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken. Add cheeses and whisk until fully combined.
  3. Pour cheese sauce over strained pasta and stir to combine. Sauce will thickens as it sits.
  4. Serve and enjoy!
DONNA'S NOTES
  1. I do not use pre-shredded cheese as much as I used to. Now I use 4 ounces mozzarella and 4 ounces provolone (or 8 ounces mozzarella). I shred them and add them to the recipe in place of the cheese blend. From time-to-time I will add a little Romano, Asiago or Fontina into the mix. It depends on what I have in the house. But the essential part is to use at least 4 ounces of mozzarella in your blend.
  2. Veggie ideas: When there is about 5-6 minutes left on your pasta cook time add 2 cups frozen peas or frozen broccoli (cover the pot to help it come back to a boil more quickly and remove the cover once boiling again). They will be done the same time the pasta is done and it will combine to make an incredible dinner. Another vegetable option is to stir in 3 cups fresh baby spinach, once the pasta and cheese sauce have been fully combined (at the end). It will be just wilted perfectly when it is time to serve.
  3. Protein ideas: After you have drained your cooked pasta, add it back to the pan and add chopped leftover turkey, chicken or rotisserie chicken to the hot pasta. Then pour the sauce over top. The heat from the pasta and the cheese sauce will warm the meat through and it will be ready to serve when the mac and cheese is ready. I have also used leftover ground beef, burgers, rinsed and drained beans (navy, kidney or pinto are our favorites).

mozzarella mac and cheese in a bowl with a forkful pulled out

Originally published September 2011, updated and republished February 2021

https://amzn.to/2npi3zd

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68 comments:

  1. My boys really enjoyed this, Donna. Thanks for the leftovers too!

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  2. oh, i better leave now..i'm already hungry looking at this photo!!

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  3. Now that's a mac and cheese I could sink my teeth into. Love the Italian flavors.

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  4. Yes you can always trust mac and cheese to be yummy.Nice twist:)

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  5. Too funny--I posted macaroni and cheese today as well! We're clearly on the same wavelength. Yours look creamy and cheesy aka perfect. :)

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  6. Donna, what a yummy looking bowl of pasta! I love how simple your recipe is...I know it will become a favorite of my family, too~

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  7. Well, I've never met a mac and cheese I didn't like....therfore I'm sure this one would taste great!

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  8. Aha! A real mac 'n cheese! This will get made. Maybe I'll even share it.

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  9. Who can argue with man n cheese? Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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  10. This really does look super simple and fantastic!

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  11. oh wow this looks delicious, it is so creamy love it.
    Erecipe

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  12. This looks like the perfect comfort food!

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  13. Yummy! This is my kind of mac and cheese =)

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  14. The bechamel is s crucial. I love how you make this. It's so simple and perfect as it is. Easy to dress up too if you want.

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  15. This is a great recipe! You can also put in casserole dish, top with some bread crumbs put in the oven on 350 for 30 mins. after all these steps if you like baked mac n' cheese, comes out perfect.

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  16. Can this recipe be use to.make baked mac and cheese

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    Replies
    1. If you want baked mac and cheese with this recipe I would make it like the recipe says then put it in the oven with some of the cheese blend on top and bake it until it's golden brown on top.

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    2. Do Not cook the pasta as much if you bake it.

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  17. Making Mac 'n' Cheese to take to our son's house for Thanksgiving Dinner. Our grandson loves the homemade version over the box. And that's all his other makes.

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  18. I'm now looking for a very low salt version - do you know how much sodium was in the final dish??

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    1. You can use this site to calculate your nutritional info. If you use low sodium products it should be doable. Try to stay away from low fat/no fat products as they are higher in sodium. http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php

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  19. Made this tonight. Added chicken and mixed veggies. Very delicious! Thanks!

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  20. To avoid the pasta became "sticky" put 5 - 6 drops of olive oil in the boiling water.

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    1. I have a neighbor who is a native of Rome and she says to never put oil in the water while pasta is cooking! Just as soon as the pasta is al dente, drain it and add some butter or spread, stirring to coat the pasta and then top with sauce. This also helps the sauce cling to it. I don't argue; I just eat the food and agree with her wisdom. :-)

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    2. As a full-blooded Sicilian let me reiterate that adding oil to the boiling water is not advised because the oil will interfere with the natural starch of the pasta by coating the surface and preventing it from soaking in the sauce when you combine them. Nor would I add butter once it is drained as that will interfere with the starch as well. It is best to time your pasta to be finished cooking when you are ready to combine it with the sauce so the starch and the sauce can meld together perfectly.

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    3. I agree, never put oil in any pasta that you add any kind of sauce to. Don't ever rinse it, either!

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    4. Agreed, as I was taught to cook by my full blooded Italian grandmother, never ever add oil to the water or to the pasta as this will definitely interfere with the starches and prevent your sauce from clinging to the pasta. Never rinse it either!

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    5. If you have trouble wirh "sticky" pasta, try a bigger pot and more water rather than adding oil. I'm sure you'll be happier with the result.

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    6. In Culinary School I was told that adding oil to the boiling water helps keep the water from boiling over the edge of the pot. It doesn't add any oil to the pasta, like some people think.

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    7. If you save some of the water you boiled the pasta in it you can add it back to the pasta to help with sticking. It won't change the way the sauce adheres to the noodles because it contains the original starch from the pasta.

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  21. I do this with Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing mix

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  22. Everything was good, except way too much italian seasoning. Had to rinse it off. Too strong for the little ones and actually me, too.

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  23. Thank you for this delicious, simple recipe. I loved it and so did my 3 year old, and I especially like that it calls for ingredients I already have on hand.

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  24. My cardiologist will only allow me to make the wonderful recipes on your website if the nutrition info is included (# of calories, grams of fat, mgs of cholesterol, etc.) Any chance that could happen?

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  25. Mac and Cheese never gets old-you offered so many wonderful ideas!-Carolyn @ Cabot Cheese

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  26. I'm wondering if anyone has frozen this recipe before and if so how well did it hold up?

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  27. Why does my sauce curdle when I add the cheese?

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  28. I think I would substitute the flour for corn starch cause it tasted pastey...this was a fail for me.

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    Replies
    1. You might not have let the rue mixture cook long enough to get the floury taste out.

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    2. Try using cornstarch instead of flour. You only need half the amount, and cornstarch is gluten free. I have started doing this with regular mac and cheese and it comes out creamier.

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    3. You have to let the roux cook for at least 2 minutes to cook out the pasty taste of the flour.

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  29. Made this for my son tonight and he loved it! The only thing I did differently was to add precooked grilled chicken. Next time I make it I will reduce the amount of italian seasoning by half because the recipe calls for too much. It completely overpowered the dish. Thanks for the recipe!

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  30. I love mac & cheese. The recipes I have tried have a gritty texture. Not the taste of the flour but not smooth. If anyone has thoughts on a fix or if this recipe remains smooth.............I would very much appreciate your input. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. In my early cooking days, I was using store-brand cheese for my mac and cheese and getting that gritty texture. Once I started using Kraft, Sargento, etc., the texture was smooth. Try changing your cheese brand. Hope this helps.

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    2. I have also found that removing the pot from the heat and slowly stirring in a little at a time will help it to remain smooth. Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

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    3. If you grate your own brick of cheese, this will not happen. The pre-shredded cheese has other stuff in it which can affect how smoothly it melts.

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  31. Sauce didn't have any flavor. I might have done something wrong but didn't like the sauce.

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  32. Looks YUMMY! I must make this! I may try adding a little garlic!

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    1. Holli@TheSlowRoastedItalianSeptember 24, 2017 at 1:00 PM

      Enjoy, Kathy and let us know how it goes!

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  33. I made this and it's delicious!!! Super easy too.

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    1. Holli@TheSlowRoastedItalianSeptember 24, 2017 at 1:00 PM

      Thanks so much, Dawn!! We are so happy you enjoyed it!

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  34. Great and easy. I cook it in the microwave and it doesn't heat the house.

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    1. Holli@TheSlowRoastedItalianSeptember 24, 2017 at 1:01 PM

      Thanks,Dawn! We are happy you enjoyed it!

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    2. I cook all my pasta in the microwave too. It's so much easier.

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  35. I Made This For The First Time It Turned Out Pretty Good Next Time I Make This I'm Going To Try Corn Starch Instead Of Flour.

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    1. Holli@TheSlowRoastedItalianOctober 9, 2017 at 8:42 AM

      We are happy you enjoyed it, jmcgraw!

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  36. Would heavy cream make it to think or is whole milk recommended?

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    1. I would use whole milk. I think 2 cups heavy cream would add a lot of richness that may be overwhelming. If you are wanting to add heavy cream I would use no more than 1/2 cream and half milk. Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

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  37. Oh my goodness these are so yummy! I saw these and not 10 minutes later I walked into my kitchen and started making some!And am happy that I have tried the same recipe, it was just mind blowing!My whole family just love it!!
    Keep sharing such more delighful recips!

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    1. Holli@TheSlowRoastedItalianOctober 11, 2017 at 7:28 AM

      Thanks so much, Akshat!!! We are so happy you enjoyed it!

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  38. My son doesn't like baked mac and cheese, so this recipe is perfect. Another stove-top mac and cheese recipe I like is Alton Brown's. My 3rd favorite mac and cheese is baked in the oven with uncooked pasta. Love it.

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  39. Hola! I've been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good job!

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  40. Can you use skim milk to decrease the fat content?

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  41. Made this last night and wowser! It is now something I will keep the ingredients to all the time! My Hubs just adored it. We put in spinach. Next time, we will put in chicken, tomatoes and spinach! A really hearty but simple meal.

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  42. Super yummy! I also browned some chicken to go with it. Really tasty and full of flavor while being easy and quick to make. It tastes a little like pizza too! Enjoy 😊

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  43. This might just be the pregnant taste buds talking, but I want this with broccoli or Brussel sprouts, seasoned chicken, and fresh, diced tomatoes.
    And I think I want it now.

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