Italian Mac and Cheese

Italian mac and cheese

The Spruce / Pete Scherer

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 55 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 4 servings

Mac and cheese is so versatile that whole restaurant menus have been dedicated to the crowd-pleasing dish. With different cheeses and mix-ins, the dish can change completely. Here we have a recipe with a classic twist: mac and cheese, Italian style. Mozzarella, fontina, Romano, and Parmesan combine with roasted garlic, roasted cherry tomatoes, and basil for an irresistible and satisfying dish.

Perfect alone as a light meal or snack; this Italian style mac and cheese is also a great side dish with burgers, barbecued chicken, or a holiday meal. You can also make a tossed salad, and enjoy it along with your mac n cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes (halved lengthwise)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (plus more to taste)
  • 2/3 pound elbow macaroni (uncooked)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 1/4 cup fontina cheese (shredded)
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1/4 cup dried basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  2. Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Place the garlic in a large baking dish, then drizzle with olive oil, rubbing it lightly all over the bottom of the pan. Place the halved cherry tomatoes, cut side down, around the head of garlic. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the garlic is softened and golden. When cool enough to handle, remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and smash together.

  3. Meanwhile bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  4. Place the milk in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

  5. Combine the butter and flour in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is a light blonde color, about 3 minutes.

  6. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture. Continue whisking as you add the mozzarella, fontina, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. Transfer the cooked pasta to the baking dish with tomatoes. Add the dried basil and roasted garlic, then pour the cheese sauce over top. Toss everything to combine well.

  8. Top the macaroni with shredded Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake until breadcrumbs are browned, and the mac and cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes.

  9. Serve immediately.

Recipe Variations

  • The roasted garlic can be made up to a few days ahead of time.
  • Black garlic, available in more and more supermarkets, would make an easy, delicious, and time-saving substitute for roasted garlic.
  • You can substitute muenster or another very melty cheese for the fontina.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes will work well in place of the cherry tomatoes in a pinch.
  • In the summertime, add a chiffonade of fresh basil for an extra note of herbaceousness.

Tips

  • Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed container for up to one week.
  • Don't overcook the pasta—make sure it is just al dente—overcooked pasta can make your mac and cheese dish mushy.