Baked Mac and Cheese, Italian style.

Baked Mac and Cheese, Italian style. 1

Baked Mac and Cheese with Brown Butter Pangrattato.

I’ve died and gone to heaven.

It’s true. Is there any better comfort food than Baked Mac & Cheese? My teenagers don’t think so, and they’ve been missing the “traditional” Mac & cheese I make back in the US with extra sharp white cheddar. Since I can’t make that here in my Italian kitchen, I’ve been experimenting and have come up with this.

I call this Grown Up Italian Baked Mac & Cheese. This is the classy Italian cousin, a spin on that recipe from home but dare I say it’s so much better? I still think of this as American food, as I have never seen anything quite like this served in Italy. But it’s so good, who cares?

What makes this Italian? How about fresh mozzarella, creamy ricotta, tangy gorgonzola and the crunchy nutty wondrousness of Pangrattato– a fancy Italian word that means “grated bread”. These are no ordinary bread crumbs however, cooked in brown butter and punched with flavor from garlic, chili flakes and herbs.

This recipe is perfect to play with- change up the cheeses, add some white wine to the cheese sauce, sprinkle some pancetta on the top- it’s all good!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Brown Butter Pangrattato

Baked Mac and Cheese, Italian style. 2

Baked Mac & Cheese with Brown Butter Pangrattato

Grown Up Italian Mac & Cheese. The sexy Italian cousin of an American classic and the perfect mix of rich & creamy with a crunchy Pangrattato topping. Make it your own by changing up the cheeses or sprinkling pancetta or bacon on top.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

Pangrattato topping:

  • 2 cups coarse breadcrumbs
  • 3 T. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Garlic cloves minced
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ c. Chopped Flat leaf Parsley
  • 1 Lemon, zested

Pasta:

  • 1 lb mezze rigatoni or cavatappi
  • 3 c. Milk
  • 1/2 c. half and half or white wine!
  • 1/2 c. Butter
  • 1/2 c. Flour
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 c. Fontina Cheese shredded
  • 1 c. Mozzarella Cheese chopped into small cubes
  • 1/2 c. Ricotta
  • 1/2 c. Gorgonzola crumbled
  • 1/4 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 500. Grease small gratin pans, or 1 9×13 casserole.[br]

Make Pangrattato Topping:

  • Heat butter in a large skillet, cook over medium low heat until browned and nutty.
  • Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown.
  • Add breadcrumbs, pepper flakes and salt. Mix to gether and let cook in pan until crisp & toasty. Remove from heat, add parsley and lemon zest to the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Set aside to cool.

Pasta:

  • Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. When it begins to boil, add generous amount of salt, then add pasta.
  • Return to a boil and cook about 5 minutes (you want it to be extra al dente, because it will continue to cook when in the oven.)
  • Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter, then add the flour and whisk together to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the milk, continually stirring to make sure no lumps form.
  • Slowly add the fontina, ricotta & mozzarella cheeses and stir until melted and creamy.
  • Drain the pasta & add to the cheese sauce, stirring to combine.
  • Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and gorgonzola cheeses, stirring gently.
  • Pour cheesy pasta into the prepared baking dishes, top with bread crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes uncovered until brown & bubbly.

Notes

Par boiling the pasta is super important. Don’t over cook, the pasta will continue to cook and meld with the sauce while baking.
Keyword Baked Pasta, Comfort food

You’ll need to eat salad for a week after this one, but it’s so good and honestly takes comfort food to an all new level! I’m not sure my Italian neighbors would approve… Don’t turn me in. 🙂

Buon Appetito! You might also like this recipe- Five Cheese Pasta al forno.

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Baked Mac and Cheese, Italian style. 3

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