Donatella's Italian Mac and Cheese

If I’m going to tweak a beloved classic like macaroni and cheese, the results had better be infinitely better than the tried and true. I swear on my Manolos that this version will not let you down. It’s all about the cheese choices: I use top-quality Taleggio, pecorino, and Parmigiano for sharpness and tang, and creamy mascarpone for richness and texture.  At the last minute, I decided to fold some whipped egg whites into it to make the whole thing lighter—tell your guests it’s macaroni and cheese soufflé. I know what you’re thinking: mac ’n’ cheese for a dinner party? If you bake it in individual ramekins (portions spooned from a large casserole are not pretty!) and drizzle a little truffle oil on top, absolutely.

Donatella Arpaia

Donatella's Italian Mac and Cheese

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    Ingredients

    1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt 9 black peppercorns
    1 pound imported elbow macaroni Freshly ground black pepper
    3 large egg whites 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus more for greasing ramekins 1 cup mascarpone
    1/2 medium onion, finely chopped 6 ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed and diced
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour 6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
    3 1/2 cups whole milk 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, coarsely grated
    1 bay leaf 1 cup Garlic Bread Crumbs (see link to recipe below)
    1 sprig fresh thyme Truffle oil, for drizzling

    directions

    Prep: 30 min Total: 60 min
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    • 1

      Butter the ramekins. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

    • 2

      Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the pasta and stir just until the water returns to a boil. Cook until just al dente, drain, shaking well. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.

    • 3

      melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir constantly for 2 minutes; don’t allow the flour to brown. Add 1 cup of the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Stir until smooth, and then add the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and 2½ cups of milk. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue stirring frequently until lthe liquid reaches a boil (don’t let it boil over). Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to low so the milk barely simmers, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, and then strain through a sieve into a very large bowl, working the onions back and forth with a rubber spatula to extract all the liquid possible. Immediately stir in plenty of ground pepper, the nutmeg, mascarpone, Tallegio, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano, stirring until the cheeses are just melted.

    • 4

      Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins, mounding slightly, and top each with a big pinch of the bread crumbs.

    • 5

      Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is quietly sizzling and the bread crumbs are golden. Let cool for 5 minutes, drizzle with the truffle oil, and serve.

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