Salami Fennel Peppers MC 600x600 1

Laura Werlin’s Salami, Fennel, Peppers & Mozzarella Mac & Cheese




(6 to 8 servings)

  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated (or use your favorite Parmesan; about 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small red bell pepper (about 6 oz), sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch wide strips, each strip cut crosswise into thirds
  • ½ medium bulb fennel (about 8 oz), cored and thinly sliced crosswise (cut longest pieces into thirds)
  • 1 small onion (about 6 oz), sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch wide strips, each strip cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1 4-oz piece salami, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 medium clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 8 oz mini-farfalle or small shell pasta (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole or reduced fat milk
  • 12 oz mozzarella, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 2 tsp balsamic syrup (see hack)



Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Measure out 2 tablespoons of pecorino. Make a shallow pile with the cheese on the baking sheet. Smooth into a 2 1/2-inch round. Continue with the remaining cheese, spacing the piles about 3 inches apart.

Place in the oven and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Use a spatula to loosen the cheese crisps. Set aside to cool completely.


Fill a 4 to 5-quart pot about three-fouths full with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring once or twice, for 5 to 6 minutes or until tender but firm, and drain. Set pasta aside and reserve the pot.

Using a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the peppers, stirring often, and cook 5 minutes. Add the fennel, onion, and salami and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to darken around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using the same pot you used to make the pasta, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and stir constantly until a paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture starts to darken slightly and smell a bit nutty. Slowly whisk in the milk and remaining salt and cook until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the mozzarella, and cook 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, vegetable-salami mixture, and fennel seed, and stir to combine.


Ladle the mac & cheese into individual serving bowls and position a cheese crisp vertically about a half-inch deep into the center of the mixture. Drizzle with balsamic syrup and serve.

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


Balsamic syrup can be found in most supermarkets next to balsamic vinegar.