This Baked Italian Mac and Cheese recipe combines two amazing things - Italian flavors and Mac and cheese!
This cheesy, delicious recipe is a great option for an easy weeknight meal for the whole family. This one is also going to be a hit for entertaining, because who doesn’t love Mac and cheese?!
As my website turns 2, I realized I had many pasta recipes, but didn’t have a Mac and cheese recipe! And that needed to change.
So instead of a normal Mac and Cheese recipe, I added my own twist. Italian sausage, plenty of parmesan, garlic Powder and Italian seasoning all taste amazing in this cheesy recipe.
And my favorite part? The Panko breadcrumbs that get perfectly crispy in the oven.
Baked Italian Mac and Cheese Ingredients
Here are the ingredients that you will need for this recipe:
- Small pasta - I used shells, but you can also use elbows or farfalle.
- Ground Italian sausage - You may use hot or mild, whichever is your preference.
- Whole milk
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- Garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- Italian Parsley
- Panko Breadcrumbs
- Fresh Basil
First, cook your pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Make sure you salt your pasta water - it’s so important to flavor the pasta! When cooked, drain pasta and set aside.
Cook the Italian Sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. After this step, heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Next, add 1 tbsp butter to the skillet you used for the sausage. Melt over medium heat. Add flour and stir well.
Once the flour and butter are combined, add milk and whisk until there are no crumps of flour. This should take about 2-3 minutes. This creates a roux sauce. This sauce is commonly the base for Mac and cheese. It helps keep thicken everything up and it the perfect base to add cheese to.
After you’ve made your roux, add in mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Add your seasonings, turn heat to low, and mix until everything is combined and the cheese is fully melted.
Add cooked pasta, Italian sausage, and some Italian parsley to the skillet. Mix well, then transfer Mac and cheese to a greased oven safe baking dish. Top with panko breadcrumbs and a few pats of butter.
Cook for 10 minutes. If desired, you can broil for a minute or two to get the breadcrumbs super crispy. Garnish with Italian parsley and fresh basil. Serve and enjoy your baked Italian Mac and cheese!
Kitchen Equipment for Mac and Cheese
Here is some kitchen equipment you will need for this recipe. You can find all of this equipment from Amazon!
Oven Safe Baking Dish - Check out this oven safe baking dish. It’s perfect for this Mac and cheese recipe, you won’t have to worry about and cracking.
Craft Pasta - I am a sucker for artisan pasta. I love this brand - it's Bronze Die Cut and super high quality.
Pasta Strainer - I love this big strainer. It’s perfect for taking pasta from the pot directly into a sauce. I use it all the time and highly recommend it!
Here are a few ways you can change up this recipe:
Change Protein: If you don’t like Italian Sausage, you can substitute shredded chicken, bacon, or even diced meatballs to this recipe. Just make sure it’s cooked before adding it to the Mac and cheese.
Add Cheeses: You can always play around with the different cheeses in this recipe. I recommend a combination of a melty cheese and a hard cheese. Some other melty cheese options instead of mozzarella are fontina, asiago, or provolone. Some options for harder Italian cheese instead of parmesan are pecorino Romano or grana Padano.
Remove Breadcrumbs: If you don’t like baked Mac and cheese, just serve immediately after mixing the pasta, sausage, and parsley to the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Macaroni and Cheese is definitely an American dish with roots inspired by Italy. There are many Italian pasta dishes with melted cheese, such as cacio e pepe.
Meltier cheese is perfect in Mac and Cheese. Cheeses such as cheddar or mozzarella are great for Mac and Cheese since they will melt easily in the cheese sauce.
More Pasta Recipes:
If you’re a pasta lover like I am, check out these other delicious pasta recipes:
Lemon Pantry Pasta - This pasta is so easy and simple yet so delicious! I love making this recipe in a pinch - it comes together in just 15 minutes!
Sausage and Mushroom Rigatoni with Crispy Sage - If you love rigatoni as much as I do, check out this sausage and mushroom rigatoni with crispy sage recipe! It's savory and full of flavor. This one is perfect for an at home date night!
Vegetarian Portobello Mushroom Bolognese - If you are looking for vegetarian pasta recipes, this is just for you! This vegetarian bolognese recipe is full of flavor but much lighter than the traditional dish. With portobello mushrooms, this recipe will be loved by vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
Baked Italian Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb small pasta such as shells or elbows
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage hot or mild
- 2 tbsp butter divided
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese divided
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley divided
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Handful Fresh basil for serving
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Cook Italian Sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage from the pan and set aside.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- A 1 tbsp butter to the skillet used for the sausage and heat over medium heat. Add flour and stir well.
- When combined, add milk and whisk until there are no lumps of flour, about 2-3 minutes,
- Add in mozzarella cheese, ½ cup parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Turn heat to low and mix until cheese is melted and everything is combined.
- Add cooked pasta, cooked sausage, and 1 tbsp Italian parsley to the skillet. Mix well and transfer to a greased oven safe baking dish.
- Top Mac and cheese with panko breadcrumbs and a few pats of butter.
- Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- Garnish with additional Italian parsley and fresh basil and serve.