Mac of the Month Day is my favorite day of the month, and this month I'm pleased to present you with Mozzarella Stick Mac and Cheese! Rather than baking mozzarella sticks and adding them to the mac and cheese, I turned the whole dish almost into a giant mozzarella stick resting atop mac and cheese.
I've been having a love affair with mozzarella sticks for a while now, so making mozzarella stick mac and cheese was inevitable. I pretty much want them all the time and never get sick of them! So they were a natural choice for this month's mac of the month.
There are plenty of mozzarella mac and cheese recipes out there, and they're delicious! But this is different.
Mozzarella stick mac and cheese
Not only does it have grated mozzarella from a block mixed in with the noodles, but it also has slices of fresh mozzarella cut from a log resting on top of the noodles.
To take it to the next level, it also has a layer of marinara or pizza sauce underneath the panko bread crumb topping. To make the bread crumb topping taste just like mozzarella stick batter, it has Italian seasoning mixed in!
You get the crunchy goodness of a mozzarella stick with the topping, combined with the cheesy mozzarella and marina as a finishing touch.
You'll use all white cheese in this recipe (a mix of mozzarella and sharp white cheddar). As always, I STRONGLY encourage you to shred your own cheese rather than buying it pre-shredded. Yes - it matters!
The slices of mozzarella you place on top of the mac and cheese should be about ¼ of an inch thick.
Adding this extra mozzarella on top of the already cheesy dish helps give it that "mozzarella stick" feel with lots of cheese-pulling action.
More cheese please.
Mozzarella Stick Mac and Cheese
For the Mac and Cheese
- 3 cups uncooked macaroni noodles
- 4 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 3.5 cups milk
- 0.5 cups cream
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar shred yourself, do not use pre-shredded
- 1 cup mozzarella shred yourself, do not use pre-shredded
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 0.5 teaspoon salt or more, to taste
For Everything Else
- 250 g fresh mozzarella log cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 cup marinara or pizza sauce
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
- 0.5 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 0.5 tablespoon dehydrated parsley
For the Mac and Cheese
- In a large pot of salted water, boil your pasta according to package directions. Cook for one minute less than the package states if you like your pasta more al dente. While the pasta cooks, preheat your oven to 350F.
- In a large saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. of butter on medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the 4 tbsp. (¼ cup) of flour, mixing constantly.
- Once the butter and flour are mixed and begin to form a paste, SLOWLY add the milk and cream. Stir constantly! Add the salt and onion powder and mix well. Keep cooking this mixture on medium heat until it begins to thicken and gently bubble.
- Once the roux is gently bubbling and has thickened up a little bit, turn off the heat. Now, add your 3 cups of cheese and stir gently. Turning off the heat and just allowing the heat from the roux to melt the cheese helps prevent the cheese form getting stringy.
- Add your cheese mixture to the noodles once all the cheese has melted and incorporated. Stir gently and pour into a butter, oven-safe dish: 2.5 qt or 9-inch baking dish.*
- Place the ¼-inch slices of fresh mozzarella atop the macaroni. Then, spread one cup of marinara or pizza sauce on top.
For the Panko Topping
- Melt 2 tbsp. of butter and mix with one cup of panko bread crumbs, 0.5 tbsp. Italian seasoning and 0.5 tbsp. of dehydrated parsley.
- Add the panko topping on top of the mac and cheese, fresh mozzarella, and marinara. Cover, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. Let sit for about five minutes before serving, then dig in!
- *If you use a different size dish than 2.5 qts or 9-inch baking dish, you'll have to adjust some ingredients. For a bigger dish, you'll need more breadcrumbs, marinara, and fresh mozzarella if you want the same consistency.
- The mac and cheese may seem really creamy (almost soupy) when you first make it, but it thickens up once it's baked!
Hope ya love it! Can't wait to hear what you think.
xo - C