Friday, February 25, 2011

Italian Mac n Cheese: My go-to 'welcome new baby' meal

I am part of a local mom group, and whenever one of our members has a new baby, an event is added to our playdate calendar to allow members to sign up to bring dinner for the family. (Nice, huh?) This Italian Mac n Cheese recipe is my go-to meal ever since I brought it to one of our dinner playdates and it got rave reviews. It is easy to double and freeze in disposable baking pans. I hope you enjoy it!

Italian Mac-n-Cheese

1 pound *ziti, penne rigate or cavatappi (ribbed,hollow corkscrews)
1 pound Italian bulk sweet or hot sausage, casing removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cup chopped onion
1 package baby bella (portabella) mushrooms or white mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (to lessen fat, use 2% evaporated milk or combination of both)
10-ounce sack (2-1/2 cups) shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well (I use Roi-Tel)
½ teaspoon Tabasco, optional (I use Chipotle Tabasco)
½ cup fresh Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente (do not overcook).

In a skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain on paper towel. Return pan to heat and add olive oil, butter, onions, and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

To mushroom mixture, add flour and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Stir in stock then stir in cream. Bring cream mixture to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4-cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. Remove from heat and add hot sauce is desired.

Pour cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese and top with Parmesan. If serving immediately, brown under the broiler until cheese melts. (I find this does NOT always heat the casserole adequately. I top casserole with foil sprayed with Pam, and bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

To prepare in advance, prepare sausage/mushroom/cheese mixture (everything except pasta) and refrigerate. Cook pasta and add to sausage mixture. Cover with Pam-sprayed foil and bake 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir. Uncover, top with additional cheese and Parmesan, and bake an additional 5 minutes.
To Freeze:
Spray disposable pan and add Mac-n-cheese. Leave OFF the additional cheese and Parmesan. Cover with a foil lid. Wrap more foil around pan to completely seal. To cook, thaw completely and then cook according to the last paragraph.
*You may notice from the picture I used a few different types of pasta. This is not something that I used to do, until my mom pointed out one simple fact. See, I wouldn't use different pastas because of the different cooking time... which now that I type it out, sounds really really stupid. The funny thing is that I consider myself to be a pretty good cook... and I never thought to do this? I used Bow Ties (10 min), Corkscrews (8 min), Mezze Penne (9 min). So anyway, my mom pointed out the obvious... put in the bow ties first and set the timer to 10 minutes. When the timer gets to 9, put in the Mezze Penne, and when it gets to 8 put in the Corkscrews. Duh! Yeah, I felt stupid.


  1. This looks VERY yummy! I'll have to try it on my gang...they're picky, but if Mac N Cheese is in the title, they'll eat anything! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Love your creativity & yummy recipes, thanks for linking up to my blog bash K.I.S.S. @ The Tattered Tag. Please link up more of your great ideas tomorrow. :)

    Drop by The Tattered Tag

  3. Yummo! I am definantly going to have to try this! My kids would LOVE it! Thanks for sharing at Try it Tuesday! I will be featuring this!!
    Hope to see you tomorrow!!

  4. This looks and sounds amazing,

  5. ∙ So you go to a new mom's home for dinner? Does that suggestion go down well with a new baby in the home? I would have though lunch may be a more apt time of the day. I just don't get it. ∙

    1. No no, we BRING the new mom and her family dinner. We drop it off and leave.


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