Back in college, Macaroni Grill was one of my favorite restaurants. I'd go there with my girlfriends almost weekly, and in between class breaks! A few weeks ago my husband and I were out with B doing our weekend errands when we decided to pop into one for lunch. In the seven years that we've been together, I can't remember the last time we'd actually gone into a Macaroni Grill to eat! (Sushi always wins over!) I got my usual dish- penne rustica. It's my absolute favorite, and of course the rosemary bread they give you to dip in olive oil! (I think I ended up eating most of that rosemary loaf all by myself!!) In all these years, I had forgotten how much I loved this dish so I decided to find some copycat recipes when I got home. Surprisingly I found several, but the one I chose to follow was this one. (Some of the other ones just made way more than I needed, or used a lot more ingredients than I had).
(Wish I had gotten a better picture, but I took it last minute on my phone!)
The final result was DELISH!! I have to say it may be my newest go to dinner when I can't think of anything else to make! Normally my go to pasta dish is this bow-tie pasta with ham and asparagus- and since first making this recipe I've since made different variations of chicken/mushroom/shrimp added to it! (Sorry, this is an OLD post, and a lot of pictures from when I first started blogging were lost when we switched servers-I need to remember to take a picture of it next time I make it so I can add it back on here! But I can guarantee you this is a huge hit as well! I've made it several times for dinner parties and pot-lucks and always get compliments on it!)
I thought it tasted pretty much spot on with what Macaroni Grill has to offer! This would easily serve a family of four- if not more! We are a family of 2 and a half (our 13 month old doesn't eat THAT much!) and we had more than enough left over for lunch for two days!
For the gratinata sauce:
- 3 tbsp butter (I think next time I may only use 2 as I felt it was a bit oily in the end...but that may be me!)
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp marsala wine
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (I only had Kraft Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago shredded cheese on hand and it tasted just fine)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp minced rosemary
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1 lb penne pasta cooked (instead of an entire 1 lb box, I used about 3/4 of the box since I knew it would make way more than we'd need. Also, when cooking, don't cook for the full amount that it says, since you will be baking it as well, you don't want the pasta to be too mushy!)
- 1/2 lb shrimp peeled and deveined (the original recipe said 12 medium shrimp, since I enjoy shrimp and it was on sale, I just bought a half pound and went with that)
- 4 ounces chopped pancetta (original recipe called for 2 ounces thick sliced prosciutto, but I couldn't find any at the grocery store. They had the chopped pancetta instead so I used that. If you can't find pancetta or prosciutto you can always substitute with bacon as well)
- 1 skinless boneless chicken breast (the original recipe called for two, but since I had extra shrimp and extra pancetta I figured one would be enough)
- (The original recipe also had some garnishes and toppings, however I chose only to sprinkle with the parmesan cheese)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (Original recipe called for 500 degrees, but I normally don't use temps that high so I didn't think it was necessary...)
- Cook penne pasta and drain; set aside. (I boiled my pasta for about 9 minutes rather than the 11 minutes the box recommended)
- Prepare the meats and shrimp. Pan fry the pancetta (or whatever bacon meat you are using). Let blot dry on towel to absorb all the fat. Salt and pepper your chicken breast. If you have a stove top grill pan you can prepare your chicken and shrimp on here (or an outdoor bbq), or if it's easier, just pan-fry both on the stove.
- Prepare the gratinata sauce in a medium to large pot. Melt the butter and add in the minced garlic, on a medium or low setting. Stir for a bit, but don't let the garlic burn. Add in the marsala wine. Continue adding in the rest of the wet/dry ingredients and whisk for about 10 minutes. The sauce should thicken up. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Pour the pasta into the gratinata sauce (this is why you may need a larger pot). Add in all the meat and shrimp, and coat the pasta. Then pour the pasta into a large baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. (The original recipe has the pasta served in individual dishes, however, I find that it may be easier to just make it a casserole style- less fuss, less dishes!) Serve with some crusty bread, steamed veggies, or a side salad and you've got yourself a wonderful meal!!