October 29th, 2016

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

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Living in a house with 3 teenage boys, I’m always looking for easy dinner ideas that won’t break the bank! Those boys can eat a lot! And one of the best ways to satisfy their hunger is with a hearty pasta dish like this Italian Mac and Cheese Bake.

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

With Barilla Pasta, Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage, some shredded mozzarella cheese and a handful of other ingredients I had on hand at home, I was able to feed my hungry family for less than $10.

And there were even some leftovers for me to enjoy for lunch the next day! 

I love heading to my local Kroger for my ingredients, they always have the right prices and products I need!

Pasta is such a great, economical way to feed a crowd. And Barilla Blue Box pastas cook up quickly to al dente perfection.

Not to mention, pasta is so versatile, and everyone loves it. In fact, when it’s my turn to feed my boys’ Robotics team (we’re talking 30 hungry boys!) I usually serve pasta because it’s always a hit. 


My family loves when I use Johnsonville Italian Sausage in place of the usual ground beef or turkey in recipes.

There are so many delicious flavors right in the sausage, it’s a great way to change things up and make old recipes exciting again.

Besides using it in pasta dishes, I add it to soup, pizza and our favorite game day dip.

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

I used Barilla Penne pasta in this dish, but any tube style pasta, like rigatoni or ziti would work just as well. And you can use either the ground Johnsonville Italian Sausage, or the links.

If my store is out of the ground sausage, I’ll just buy the links and remove the sausage from the casings before I cook it. 

I also made fresh breadcrumbs to top the mac and cheese using a few slices of sandwich bread I had on hand.

If you happen to have pre-made breadcrumbs in your pantry, feel free to use them. I didn’t, and since I love a good breadcrumb topping on my mac and cheese, I mixed some up in my food processor.

Either way, you’re going to love this flavorful pasta and sausage dish!

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

Serves 8     adjust servings

Spicy Italian sausage and penne come together in this kicked up version of traditional macaroni and cheese.


  • 12 ounces Barilla Penne or other tube shaped pasta
  • 1 package Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage (links or ground)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, well drained
  • 3 slices sandwich bread, torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions until just al dente (pasta will finish cooking in oven). Drain and set aside.
  3. While pasta cooks, cook sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned, (if using sausage links, remove from casings first), breaking sausage apart during cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and wipe out the pot.
  4. Return Dutch oven to stove-top over medium heat and add butter. Cook garlic in butter until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook a few minutes more.
  5. Gradually whisk stock into pan, followed by milk. Bring to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Simmer sauce until it is thickened slightly. Add the mozzarella cheese and continue to cook over low heat until cheese is melted.
  7. Add pasta and cooked sausage to sauce in Dutch oven and stir to combine well. Pour pasta mixture into the prepared baking pan.
  8. In a food processor, pulse bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley and olive oil to form crumbs. Sprinkle crumb mixture over pasta
  9. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.
2 reviews

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

Normally I have a huge variety of Barilla pasta in my pantry, but we recently moved across town and a lot of the pantry staples I usually have handy are still boxed up in the basement.

And the basement is currently being finished, which means it’s dusty and dirty down there.

So rather than dig through that mess, I just picked up a few boxes of penne, along with some Johnsonville Sausage and the mozzarella cheese I needed for this recipe, during my weekly shopping trip to King Soopers.


I did manage to find a can of diced tomatoes in the cupboard, and I had the rest of the ingredients on hand as well.

I’ve found if I keep my pantry well-stocked with things like pasta, canned tomatoes and a variety of spices and seasonings, it’s not hard to feed all my teenagers on a budget.

In fact, I’m really looking forward to the basement being done so I can finish unpacking my pantry!

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

Be sure to save this easy pasta recipe to your favorite Pinterest board for later.

Italian Mac and Cheese Bake




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