Pizza Night Takes a Surprising Turn When It’s Scooped, Not Sliced

BY Laura Rege, TIMEJanuary 5, 2022 PRINT

This pizza and mac and cheese mash-up recipe is perfect for those times when you just can’t choose. It’s decadent and over-the-top in all the right ways, but mainly it’s just downright delicious. And just like pizza, it can be topped with whatever you like. We went with pepperoni, but the customization potential is endless.

What’s the key to super creamy and cheesy mac and cheese? A proper cheese sauce! Start by making a béchamel sauce (cooking butter, flour, and milk until thickened), then reduce the heat to low and add the cheese slowly, stirring in small handfuls at a time to ensure you get the perfect melt.

To Make Ahead

Prepare the recipe up until it goes into the oven. After the macaroni and cheese mixture has been scraped into the baking dish and topped with the sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, cover the baking dish with a lid or tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Picking Your Pasta

Any medium-sized dry pasta works in place of the cellentani or cavatappi. Penne or rigatoni are great options. Or you could switch it out for smaller, more iconic mac and cheese shapes, such as elbow pasta or shells.

Pizza Mac and Cheese

Serves 6 to 8

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces dried cellentani or cavatappi pasta (about 4 cups)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (1 1/2 pounds), divided
  • 1 cup prepared pizza sauce or marinara
  • 1/2 cup mini pepperoni slices
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the dried pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Meanwhile, finely chop the yellow onion (about 1 cup) and garlic cloves.

When the pasta is ready, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden-brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and all-purpose flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute.

Add the dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the whole milk. Bring to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low. Add 4 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, one handful at a time, stirring until melted before adding the next handful. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed.

Scrape the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and spread into an even layer. Spoon the pizza sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and arrange the pepperoni slices over the cheese.

Bake until bubbling and the cheese on top is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. If you want a browned top, turn the oven to broil and broil until the cheese is golden-brown in spots, about 2 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the fresh basil. Sprinkle over the baked macaroni and cheese and sprinkle with more red pepper flakes if desired before serving.

Recipe Notes

Prepare the mac and cheese up until baking. Let it cool completely, then refrigerate it wrapped tightly in a plastic wrap for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. If baking from frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Bake until cheese is melted and mac and cheese is warmed through, about 40 minutes.

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Laura Rege is a contributor to, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to
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