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Easy Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

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This easy Italian Mac and Cheese Bake is a favorite quick and simple pasta recipe perfect for busy nights, packed with beautiful sausage flavor, tomato, cheese, and spinach. Plus — it’s an under 30-minute dinner you will love.

Italian Mac and Cheese pasta recipe in a cast iron skillet

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This simple pasta bake is for busy weeknight dinners, for nights when you don’t want to cook, or for days when you’re craving cheesy goodness!

And simple? I did mention that, right?

Of course, I did — because honestly, it’s one of those meals that everyone (well, anyone into pasta, cheese, or sausage that is) will absolutely love.

So here you go. This Italian-style mac and cheese take the classic to a whole new savory level. And it’s as simple as a few choice ingredients.

Plus, it’s a simple easy pasta recipe that you can easily make your own by swapping a few ingredients.

Top view of Italian Mac and Cheese with fresh basil

Italian Mac and Cheese Ingredients

Here is a quick summary of the basic ingredients I used in this pasta recipe. We’ll talk more about adaptations and substitutions later.

Specific ingredient measurements are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Italian sausage, castings removed
  • Medium onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Pasta
  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Half and half (or cream)
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Fresh basil

Ingredient Notes

Here’s how you can adapt this recipe and make it your favorite pasta dish.

Pasta: any short variety of pasta will work. I used casarecce pasta but penne, cavatappi, even macaroni would be great!

Meat: I used Sweet Italian Sausage because the flavors are amazing, but if that isn’t your preference, ground chicken, ground turkey, or ground beef work wonderfully too!

Pasta Sauce: You will need a 24 to 26-ounce jar of pasta sauce, which is what most jarred tomato sauces are. I used Bertolli Five Cheese Sauce but have also used marinara and other favorite pasta sauces too. Each lends different flavor profiles, which makes the recipe taste different each time. I do prefer, however, a smoother sauce rather than a chunky textured sauce in this pasta recipe.

Greens: I love spinach in pasta, but if it isn’t your thing, swap it for another green, like kale or mustard greens. Or, you can skip it altogether!

How to Make Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

Preheat oven to 350° and cook the pasta to al-dente, according to package instructions.

Step 1: Cook the Sausage

Cook sausage in a large oven-safe skillet cook sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until seared and no longer pink; about 4 minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until softened; about 5 minutes more.

Step 2: Stir it All Together

Stir in cooked pasta, pasta sauce, and baby spinach leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then stir in half and half; bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed; about 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella. If baking the pasta in the skillet, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top. If baking in a 13 x 9-inch dish, transfer the pasta and then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top.

Step 3: Bake the Pasta for 10 Minutes

Bake the pasta until the cheese is golden and bubbling; about 10 minutes. Garnish with basil before serving.

Serving of Italian Mac and Cheese with Melting Cheese
Italian Mac and Cheese pasta recipe in a cast iron skillet

Easy Italian Mac and Cheese Bake

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This easy Italian Mac and Cheese Bake is a favorite quick and simple pasta recipe perfect for busy nights, packed with beautiful sausage flavor, tomato, cheese, and spinach. Plus -- it's an under 30 minute dinner you will love.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage, castings removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 12 ounces pasta, cooked and drained
  • 28-ounce jar pasta sauce (marinara, cheese sauce, etc.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup half and half (or cream)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella, shredded
  • fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and cook pasta to al-dente according to package instructions.
  2. Cook sausage in a large oven-safe skillet cook sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until seared and no longer pink; about 4 minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until softened; about 5 minutes more.
  3. Stir in cooked pasta, pasta sauce, and baby spinach leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then stir in half and half; bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed; about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella. If baking the pasta in the skillet, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top. If baking in a 13 x 9-inch dish, transfer the pasta and then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top.
  5. Bake the pasta until the cheese is golden and bubbling; about 10 minutes. Garnish with basil before serving.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 407Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 1131mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 21g

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