Cooking On A Budget: Italian Mac 'n Cheese

Friday, July 17, 2015

Italian Mac 'n Cheese

Whoever came up with blending pasta and cheese ~ sheer genius! My version of Italian Mac 'n Cheese has ingredients you find in basic Italian dishes. It's creamy and delicious.

One of the consummate comfort foods of all time ~ macaroni and cheese. The mere mention of the name evokes special food memories from childhood. Everyone can relate to macaroni and cheese and everyone's family has that "special" version made by mom or grandma that was passed down from generation to generation. We can envision our mother in the kitchen, apron donned and putting together the quintessential supper for the family.You can see her grating fresh cheese within your mind or stirring the butter and flour to make a roux and then carefully adding in the cheese a little at a time, stirring to make a beautiful creamy cheese base for the macaroni and cheese.

These are precious food memories and some how macaroni and cheese isn't the same when it's made from a box. Now that's not knocking the box - sometimes that's all one feels they can afford or have time for and well - we know kids do love it. It took my youngest son 19 years until he actually ate my homemade macaroni and cheese and after tasting it, wondered why he didn't try it sooner.

This is a dinner you can make a day in advance, but I would suggest fully cooking the sausage if you do that. There's lots of cheese and enough meat to satisfy your meat lovers in the family. Kids love pepperoni so this is a super meal the whole family will enjoy.
  • 3/4 lb. Italian sweet sausage - casings removed
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce or marinara
  • 3/4 cup pepperoni slices (use dry measure)
  • 1/2 box penne pasta - cooked to manufacturer's directions el dente
  • 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz. bag pizza blend cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley - chopped fine or dried
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil - chopped fine or dried
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  1. Start by making the ricotta mixture: in a bowl blend together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese, about 3/4 of the bag of cheese, the pepper and 3 tbsp. of the milk. Mix well.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat add in the sausage and break down. You'll cook the sausage to about half way done. After you get the sausage going, add in the pepperoni. Stir and cook until the sausage is ready. Set aside.
  3. Cook your pasta and drain it. Do not rinse.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl. While it's hot add in the ricotta mixture and the rest of the milk. Mix well.
  5. Add in the spaghetti sauce and the meat mixture and mix well.
  6. Spray your casserole dish with cooking spray for easier clean up.
  7. Add the mixture to the casserole dish and top with the rest of the pizza cheese.
  8. Bake uncovered in a preheated 350° oven for about 40 minutes. If the cheese isn't melted enough or lightly browned, switch to broil and broil for 5-7 minutes.

This great family meal serves 6-8 portions and costs about $12.00 total to make.  $2.00 per serving for six people and $1.50 for eight people.

If you want to pin for later:

Other fabulous macaroni and cheese recipes I've created that you may want to view:

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