Unlike stuffing or mashed potatoes, mac and cheese isn’t a completely traditional Thanksgiving dish. But, if it’s on the table it always gets devoured…and this baked mac & cheese is definitely the one you’ll want to make.
I don’t know how to describe this dish to do it justice. It seriously is that good. It’s just fall comfort food at its finest, and I don’t think you can ever go wrong with that!
The first time I made this, I used gnocchi in hopes of creating a sort of “gnocchi bake”. It was good, but I realized that the sauce just doesn’t stick to the gnocchi like it does a regular pasta (especially this campanelle pasta because of all its nooks and grooves).
So, I make it again (and ate it again) and the pasta turned it into everything I wanted… a creamy, decadent, and extremely cheese baked pasta dish.
I use two cheeses for the sauce, a sharp white cheddar and a creamy fontina. And the sauce is basically just a béchamel, except I start by caramelizing onions, and I throw a few fresh sage and thyme sprigs in there for extra, hearty flavor. Plus, there’s prosciutto mixed in, too. And it is an absolute must. It adds such a salty kick which is really nice against all the creaminess.
The mac and cheese is poured into a skillet or baking dish, topped with more cheese and sage breadcrumbs, drizzled with olive oil and baked…too good! You could also roast off some acorn squashes until tender and then mound the mac and cheese into those before baking if you’re feeling extravagant. It’s a fun way to present the mac and cheese, plus it adds a layer of roasted squash with every spoonful.
Either way, I highly recommend making a big batch of this and serving it for one of your holiday parties this week (plus these brussels sprouts)! And then eating leftovers on the couch the next night…
Baked Mac & Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs
a creamy, decadent baked mac and cheese with prosciutto, breadcrumbs, and herbs
- 3 oz sourdough bread, cubed
- 6 sage leaves
Mac & Cheese
- olive oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 2 oz fontina, shredded (for the sauce)
- 4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ½” pieces
- 1 lb campanelle pasta
- 2 oz fontina, shredded (for the topping)
- olive oil, as needed
- Combine the bread and sage leaves in a food processor.
- Pulse until the bread mixture resembles fine crumbs. Set aside.
Mac & Cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Saute the onions until golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- Add the butter to the onions and let melt. Whisk in the flour. Let cook for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously. Add the sage and thyme. Bring the milk to a simmer. Let simmer for about 8-10 minutes on medium-low until slightly thickened, stirring often.
- Remove and discard the sage and thyme sprigs. Stir in the cheddar cheese, 2oz of fontina cheese, and the prosciutto.
- Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir until completely coated. Taste and season with salt as needed.
- Distribute the mac & cheese into a large, greased cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining fontina cheese over top. Top with the breadcrumbs as well. Drizzle the breadcrumbs with a little bit of olive oil.
- Bake the mac & cheese for about 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and breadcrumbs have browned. Garnish with fresh thyme.
You can also roast off some acorn squashes until tender, with the seeds scooped out, and then mound the mac and cheese into the squash before baking!