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Italian Macaroni & Cheese

This is some pretty deca­dent Mac & Cheese. Seri­ous fla­vor com­mit­ment here!  The pancetta–ridiculous! The toma­toes add a tang and a sweet­ness at the same time. It is not any more dif­fi­cult than reg­u­lar mac­a­roni, but it does require a bit of a time com­mit­ment. When the toma­toes say they are ‘slow-roasted’, it’s for a rea­son. But, on the bright side, they can be done ahead, and they do absolutely make the dish.

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

Every­one who tried this dish was blown away by the fla­vor com­bi­na­tion. The mild­ness of the cheeses is a per­fect bal­ance to the blast of fla­vor you get from the toma­toes and pancetta. Roast­ing the toma­toes for so long allows them to develop this crazy tang to go along with the sweet­ness that roast­ing brings. And the but­tered, herbed and cheesed crumb top­ping makes for a great tex­ture con­trast. Don’t skip it!

The whole thing is so worth the extra time and effort. Pancetta can be expen­sive, but it’s fla­vor is dis­tinc­tive enough that I would rec­om­mend not sub­sti­tut­ing any­thing for it. This dish will feed eight, which makes it price out more effec­tively. Toss a salad, (not much money there…), throw in some crusty bread and your meal is done. Save it for a spe­cial occa­sion but don’t wait too long to try it!


Ital­ian Mac­a­roni & Cheese


  • 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes–roma or cherry–slow roasted and chopped
  • 1 pound pancetta–1/4 inch diced–rendered, drained and set aside, drip­pings saved
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 table­spoons pancetta drippings
  • 1/2 cup shallots–diced
  • 5 table­spoons all pur­pose flour
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups Ital­ian cheese blend–shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 table­spoons butter–melted
  • 1/3 cup parme­san cheese
  • 1/2 tea­spoon ital­ian seasoning
  • fresh basil to garnish


    Slow roast­ing tomatoes
  1. Cut toma­toes in half length­wise and arrange cut side up on a sil­pat or parch­ment lined bak­ing sheet. Driz­zle lightly with a light olive oil. Salt and pep­per very lightly.
  2. Place in a pre­heated 225 degree F. oven for 3–5 hours, depend­ing on the size of the toma­toes. They should roast, releas­ing some of their juices and stat to caramelize a bit, but should not be dehy­drated at all.
  3. Let cool on pan before cut­ting and using.
  4. Ren­der­ing pancetta
  5. Dice the pancetta into 1/4 inch cubes.
  6. In a heavy pan on medium-high heat, sauté the pancetta until most of the fat is ren­dered out and the pancetta is a nice, medium brown color. It will be slightly crispy, but not overly so.
  7. Strain out with a slot­ted spoon or flat strainer, and place on paper tow­els to absorb excess oil.
  8. Save the drip­pings for the roux.
  9. Cook the elbow mac­a­roni in salted, boil­ing water for just under what the pack­age direc­tions say. Drain and cool with cool water and set aside.
  10. On medium heat, in a heavy bot­tomed pan, heat 5 table­spoons of the reserved pancetta drip­pings. Add the diced shal­lots and sauté for 3–5 min­utes, until they start to turn translucent.
  11. Add the 5 table­spoons flour. Stir until cooked, about 4 min­utes. Slowly add the milk and half & half, whisk­ing con­tin­u­ously. Mix­ture will thicken.
  12. After mix­ture cooks for a minute or two, Slowly add the Ital­ian cheese blend.
  13. Stir until cheese is com­pletely melted. Mix­ture will be very thick. Slowly add half of the chicken broth, whisk­ing continuously.
  14. Add the set aside mac­a­roni and gen­tly stir to combine.
  15. Add the ren­dered pancetta and the chopped roasted toma­toes. Stir care­fully to combine.
  16. Slowly add the remain­ing chicken broth until the thick­ness of the sauce is right. You want it to be a lit­tle bit waterier than you would think so that it can be baked for a few min­utes and not get too thick.
  17. Put cheese and noo­dles into a 3 quart but­tered casse­role dish.
  18. Add the bread and shred­ded parme­san cheese and ital­ian sea­son­ing to a food proces­sor. Pulse for 10 or so seconds.
  19. Toss crumbs with melted but­ter, and sprin­kle over the top of the mac­a­roni and cheese.
  20. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 15–20 min­utes, or until it’s heated through in the middle.
  21. Sprin­kle with chopped, fresh basil and serve immediately.

Italian Macaroni and Cheese



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