Friday Favorite – Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica

This Friday’s Favorite was not on the original meal plan for the week but when I received the phone call that our friends, The Kangs, had just had their SIXTH baby girl and asked if I could take dinner in – I knew what I would make.

This is my favorite meal to make when I am asked to take dinner into someone; first, because it is so good and second, because it makes a TON – and I mean a TON!!

I halved the recipe and had enough to fill two 9 x 13’s!!  One for us and one for them.

LA Notes:  When precooking the pasta be sure and cook  it “al dente” so that it doesn’t get too soft after baking the dish in the oven.  Don’t let the amount of cream used scare you too much (this is not a low calorie dish) – remember it makes a TON!

The Kangs loved it and asked for the recipe so I thought I’d share it with all of you.

Just had to share a picture of the darling Kang girls with my two girls – this was taken before Baby Lilly was born but you will know exactly what Lilly looks like when you look at her sisters – DARLING!

Girls and Kang Girls

I found the recipe on the food blog Pimp My Dinner – remember I halved the recipe!

penne rustica - Page 066

Friday Favorite – Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica
  • 12 oz. grilled chicken breast (marinate in olive oil and garlic salt overnight, then grill on barbecue for best flavor)
  • ½ pack thick bacon
  • 48 oz. (3 boxes) penne pasta
  • 2 large red bell peppers- diced
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp paprika
Gratinata Sauce:
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup marsala wine OR ⅓ cup apple juice + 2 tbsp red wine vinegar +enough chicken broth to equal 1 cup
  • 1 tsp dijon or dry mustard
  • 1 tsp salt1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 8 cups heavy cream
  1. Sauté garlic in butter in large pan
  2. Add marsala wine, mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream
  3. Cook pasta according to directions
  4. Cook bacon
  5. Slice chicken into medium-bite size pieces
  6. Combine sauce, cooked pasta, diced chicken, cooked bacon, bell peppers, parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly
  7. Spread in pans
  8. Top with chopped rosemary and mozzarella cheese
  9. Bake @ 475 for 10 minutes
  10. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator the day of
  11. Cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 1 hour
  12. Remove foil during the last 15 minutes
  13. Number Of Servings: Yields one 8x8 and two 9x13 casserole dishes.
  14. Preparation Time: More than an hour

Leigh Anne
Hi – I’m Leigh Anne! I have been a homebased mom for 30 years since my first baby boy was born! I love working with women and helping to inspire them to achieve their goals and dreams while still maintaining motherhood and family as their number one priority. I blog about everything I enjoy – creating treats and meals in my kitchen, spending time in my garden, entertaining and party planning, reading, self improvement and tips and ideas on style and fashion.
Leigh Anne
Leigh Anne

Latest posts by Leigh Anne (see all)


  1. says

    I’m really excited about this recipe. First because it looks delicious and second, because I have to bring dinner to someone and was searching around for what to bring. Yum!

    How was Florida?

  2. Amy says

    I made this tonight and it was a HUGE hit! I served an olive and tomato focacia from Trader Joes on the side (salad & broccoli too.)
    Thank you, I think it’s even better than Macaroni Grill.

  3. Jamie says

    I am very interested in trying this recipe but again, have a question. 12 oz. of grilled chicken doesn’t seem like a lot of meet compared to how much pasta. Isn’t that the equivalent of about 1 1/2 cups? How many boneless chicken breasts do you think you use with this recipe and how much olive oil and garlic do you marinate them in overnight?

    Thank you again for sharing and for you help.

  4. says

    Just wanted to let you know I’m enjoying your recipes. We LOVE the coconut chicken and just tried this pasta tonight. It was delicious. Thanks again.

  5. Carole Lee Criddle says

    I am responsible for a youth conference in a few weeks and wondered if you thought that this recipe would appeal to teens? Also, what would you suggest as accompanyment? I think that I will try your taco/burrito bar for one of the needed meals. Thanks for your suggestions and recipes.

    • says


      I think this recipe would be perfect for your conference. I have served it at a Young Women’s dinner and then for a Missionary Zone Conference and it was a big hit at both. I did add extra chicken for the zone conference though. We served it with a nice green salad and garlic bread. Good luck!

  6. Carole Lee Criddle says

    Leigh Anne, it is Carole Lee again… I am trying out this dish tonight and questioning if it really only needs to bake for 10 minutes? Thanks.

  7. Debra Garber says

    I am also wondering about the 10 minute baking time … is that just for the first 10 minutes and then uncover and bake at 350 for an additional hour? Thanks for your response.

    • says


      If you are baking it right away it only needs 10-15 minutes because everything is cooked. It just needs to be heated up. If you have refrigerated or frozen it it will taken longer – one hour to cook if it is frozen. Thanks and glad you enjoy the blog!

  8. says

    Hello, I just found your blog, as I was googling images for Hawaiian Haystacks, my friend mentioned. I had never heard of them, and I saw your beautiful photo of it! Then I peeked around some, and found this delicious dish! Glad I found you! I’ve put your feed in my reader to follow along. =)

  9. Kimberly Davis says

    Ok, I made this for my mother-in-law’s birthday last Sunday! I also served a green salad and the garlic knots. For dessert I made the sour cream lemon pie. HOLY COW Leigh Anne, I was the ultimate hit with the kiddos, hubby and mil! Thanks for this site – I truly love it all and love how you do everything with excellence. Blessings….

  10. says

    Just made this for the hubby last night for dinner!!!! It was amazing!!!!!!! thanks for posting this recipe and your website! love, love, love it! you’re great!

  11. says

    I’m making this for dinner tomorrow night for some friends. I bought the ingredients from memory and bought sun-dried tomatoes instead of red peppers. Do you think it will still work? I’ve been dying to try this recipe too. I’m excited. :)

  12. Cecily says

    HA! I made it over the weekend and thought I’d tackle the whole recipe. I got one 9×13, one 7×11, and 2 8×8 pans. It’s extra delicious when you put a lot of mozz. on the top and let it get all crispy against the sides. It was a huge hit with the group I served it too. :)

  13. Kina says

    I’m planning to try this next week since I got alot of pasta on sale at Winn Dixie. How much olive oil and garlic salt should I use for marinating? I plan to halve the recipe but I do want to use 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m going to try and do them on the George Foreman grill. Wish me luck!!!

  14. Kina says

    Okay – another one for the dinner rotation!!! Mine didn’t look as pretty as your pic but it was definitely a household hit! Here is what I did:
    I put about 5 or 6 chicken breasts in a ziploc bag, shook in a heavy amount of garlic salt, added enough EVOO to heavily coat the breasts, zipped it closed, mushed the bag to distribute and put it in the fridge overnight.
    Yesterday, I took them out and grilled them on the George Foreman.
    I used a whole 12 oz pack of bacon minus a few strips that my son snatched to eat.
    I only used one red bell pepper.
    I only used a 16 oz pack of penne pasta.
    I only used 32 oz of heavy cream for the gratinata sauce but the rest of the seasonings I used the amount listed (I used dried rosemary leaves since I didn’t have fresh)
    I didn’t use paprika or cayenne pepper because I was out. We had enough for 3 adults plus we have leftovers for tonight to finish it off! Thanks so much. Can’t wait to try the next recipe!

  15. Heather says

    I know that the one at Macaroni Grill has some shrimp too. Do you think if I add shrimp that I should reduce the chicken? Would it be good with shrimp do you think?

  16. says

    Hi Leigh Anne…I have a question for you and your brain of wisdom. Our homeschool group is having their annual formal progressive dinner and we are in charge of the main dish this year. I am wondering if this recipe, or if you happen to know of another, would work for that. We are looking at feeding approx. 40 people. We ulitmately would love a recipe that tasted amazing (a must), was kind on the budget (prefered but not mandatory) and allowed us to make up in large quantities. Please help me oh amazing one, you are my only hope. :)

  17. says

    Well, I thought that I would leave you a note to let you know that this recipe was a huge hit!! I did make it for the kids’ formal dinner. I tripled the batch and other than the mistake of using fresh mozzerella….it turned out fabulous. Not even the picky eaters turned it away and we even served “seconds” for those that desired more. Served it with broccoli and garlic seasoned baguettes. Thank you for sharing this yummy recipe!!

  18. Mandee says

    My recipe! I love the recipes that you share, and laughed when I saw that you had found this one on Pimp My Dinner- a blog that my friend contributes to. The recipe originated from one of my neighbors (Lisa Gillespie) about 6 years ago. I think it was her brother who came up with it trying to duplicate Mac Grille’s version.

    Anyway, I have found that it doesn’t necessarily do well after having been frozen- the sauce separates. My kids still eat it, but it’s not as appealing to me. And I always use a full package of bacon as well.

    Thanks again for sharing such great recipes!

  19. Mo says

    Can I use 2% milk or anything else to lighten this up? This much heavy cream sounds pretty tough! Just wanted to see if anyone had tried it with a different ingredients/amounts. Thanks!

    • says

      I have never used anything but the cream. It really isn’t a heavy tasting dish when you make it – it makes a huge amount so there is a lot of cream but it is pretty light.

  20. Amy says

    wanted to add my 2 cents…I’ve used a combo of half and half and cream. I’ve also used Whole milk and cream and it was still perfect. Rave reviews everytime I make this! thanks to Leigh Anne!

  21. says

    May I suggest adding mozzarella cheese in the ingredients list? In my haste to go to the grocery store, I printed the recipe, copied the items I needed from the ingredients / sauce list, then got home and realized I didn’t have mozzarella to top everything with. Also, in case there are any other recipe “skimmers” rather than careful readers, would you mind giving the salt and rosemary their own lines under the sauce ingredients?

    I’m afraid I’m coming across as ungrateful and critical, but please know that I’m VERY appreciative. I’ve tried several recipes from your site and keep coming back because they’ve all been winners. My suggestions are mostly to help my careless self when I print and click next time.

  22. Jean says

    Your picture looks great! I tried this out tonight, but I used 2 c. cream and 4 c. milk (only because I didn’t have enough cream). Consequently, my white sauce was really runny and bland. It didn’t thicken up in the oven either. Do is just ran all over the plate. Do you think it was all the milk? Does yours have a real thick consistency?

    • says


      It must be the use of the milk. I always use 100% cream and never have a problem. This recipe is always a hit when I make it. If you want to cut down a bit on the fat try substituting part of the cream with 1/2 and 1/2 but not milk. Hope you’ll try it again!

  23. Alena says

    Well – I tried this and refrigerated overnight as my party wasn’t until the next day. I was REALLY concerned that it would end up being goopy and thick – but WOW – it was WONDERFUL. I baked it at 400 covered for about 45 minutes and it just mixed up really well and it had a great sauce and didn’t dry out at all – then I got out the fresh parm. and doused it with that… yummy!!

    Thank you!!

  24. Joy says

    Well, we love this recipe at my house! I doubled the recipe for a birthday dinner party for one of my son’s and my hubby! It was a hit with absolutely everyone there! I had made this twice before, but not for the same people. It has received a THUMBS UP now THREE times in a row! Sounds like a keeper to me! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  25. Jeanne says

    Leigh Anne, all the other versions of this recipe online say you have to reduce the cream sauce and that it takes hours. You don’t mention that. How long do you heat the sauce in the pan?
    Thanks so much for answering this… I really need to know. I want to make it soon, and will not have lots of time. : )

  26. says

    Gorgeous pictures Leigh Anne ! I wasn’t looking for pasta but stumbled on your page. You’re right, it made a ton. I have containers taking up room in my freezer LOL!.

    Thanks !

  27. says

    The photos looks inviting. I can’t wait to try it. If it really comes in tons then this is great for my big family. We have a bet together every Saturday noon and i am fed with Barbecue. It’s always been barbecue. This is great for a change.

    Vicki D.

  28. says

    Wow! I cannot wait for Friday when I’m cooking for my inlaws. I’m wondering, however, if it would taste as good without cream? While I love the richness of cream and make it meanly, it’s not a welcome idea for my in-laws who are health conscious. I’m thinking of using just pesto. Oh, WTH, maybe I should make my own and make a different pasta dish for them. I just cannot wait to get this mouth-watering picture in my mouth! LOL!

    • says

      It really isn’t an overly creamy dish. Since it makes such a huge batch the cream isn’t that heavy. I don’t like heavy cream sauce dishes and this one isn’t at all. I am sure it would be good with Pesto too but not quite the same.

  29. says

    Thank you for sharing this recipe and the picture is worth 1000 words or more! I’m not exactly a home-based mom but I am a work-at-home dad and I do the cooking. My wife is going to love this.


  30. Sarah says

    I just made this and it was a huge hit! Even my five year old, who wasn’t even born when this recipe was posted, and who thinks pasta without “red” sauce is an abomination, was inhaling this and complimenting me left and right. I just wish we had some leftover for lunch today! We were feeding missionaries and they ate it all.

    • says

      This is definitely a favorite at our house. I love how much it makes so it is a great one to serve for company. Glad your household enjoyed it to and the missionaries!!

  31. says

    Hey Leigh Anne –

    Just following up on my post from three years ago! I made your Penne Rustica again this week and it was even better than I remembered. I had to hunt down this recipe, I lost the copy I printed way back when. This copy is going directly into my file box! Thanks!


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