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Laura Werlin’s Pizza Mac & Cheese




(6 to 8 large servings)


  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp kosher salt (plus more as needed)
  • 1 lbs large elbow macaroni, about 4 cups
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, cut into 3-inch wide pieces (or use one ciabatta loaf or Italian bread, cut into ½-inch cubes)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 oz pecorino cheese, finely grated (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 lbs cremini or white mushrooms, stems removed and quartered (larger mushrooms cut into 6 pieces)
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole or reduced-fat milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1½ lbs fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (or coarsely grated if using vacuum-packed mozzarella)
  • 8 oz pepperoni, cut into ¼-inch cubes (if using pre-sliced pepperoni, then coarsely chopped)
  • oven roasted tomatoes (see ingredients and instructions below)
  • 2 cups pitted Kalamata olives, pitted coarsely chopped
  • ¾ tsp. red pepper flakes


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper



Preheat oven to 400˚F. Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and black pepper to taste. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool.


Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a 9 x 13 (3-quart) baking dish or pan (or sixteen 8-ounce ramekins). Set aside.

Fill a 6- to 8-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 2 tablespoons of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, until tender but firm, about 4 minutes, and drain. Reserve the pot.

Place the ciabatta cubes and ¾ cup pecorino in a large bowl. Drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil and stir to mix. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for about 2 more minutes, or until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and cook until the mixture starts to thicken and is just beginning to bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add three-quarters of the mozzarella (about 6 cups) and the remaining pecorino. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth but not too runny. It should be similar in texture to cake batter. If it’s soupy, continue cooking until it thickens. 

Add the pasta, mushrooms, pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and top with the ciabatta cubes. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Laura Werlin
James Beard award-winning author of six books on cheese, speaker, spokesperson and media personality