Cheesy Baked Macaroni, Italian-Style

Baked Italian macaroni and cheese (Maccheroni al forno)

The Spruce / Danette St. Onge

Prep: 70 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 85 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
520 Calories
27g Fat
46g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 520
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 34%
Saturated Fat 14g 72%
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Sodium 1091mg 47%
Total Carbohydrate 46g 17%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Protein 24g
Calcium 653mg 50%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Macaroni and cheese (a.k.a. mac and cheese) is a widespread and popular dish throughout English-speaking countries, including Caribbean countries where it is known as "macaroni pie." Sometimes made on the stovetop and sometimes baked, the version made in the U.S., with cheddar cheese, originates in England. 

But baked pasta casseroles are, of course, very Italian as well, existing in countless variations and usually incorporating cheese. This baked macaroni in a besciamella (simple white sauce) and cheese sauce is topped with bread crumbs before baking, for extra golden-brown crunch.

This recipe can be made with any type of short, tube-shaped pasta and you can add extra ingredients as your fancy strikes you; in fact, it's a great way to use up leftovers.


  • 10 ounces/300 grams macaroni, elbow macaroni, penne, ziti, rigatoni, or any other short dried pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (preferably not too cold)
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup/60 grams grated hard/aged Fontina, Gruyère, Comté, or Emmental (Swiss) cheese
  • 1/2 cup/40 grams freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 cup if using a fine Microplane grater)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Boil the macaroni in abundant salted water just until al dente (7 to 12 minutes, depending on the type of pasta you are using).

  2. Drain well, rinse in cold water, drain well again and set aside.

  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C and make the besciamella (white sauce):

  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. 

  5. When it's melted, whisk in the flour.

  6. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps and burning, until the roux (flour-and-butter mixture) is just slightly golden brown and has a nutty scent, 1 to 2 minutes.

  7. Gently whisk in the milk whisking continuously to prevent lumps.

  8. Continue cooking until the mixture starts to thicken, another 1 to 2 minutes.

  9. Stir in the grated cheeses, a little at a time, until they are completely melted.

  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You have made a Mornay sauce (besciamella sauce with cheese). 

  11. Stir in the cooked macaroni and toss until evenly coated.

  12. Transfer the macaroni to an 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish.

  13. Pat the macaroni down with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon so that it is compact and of even height.

  14. Sprinkle the top generously with bread crumbs and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is crisp and golden-brown.

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