Penne Rustica is the perfect copycat of the Macaroni Grill dish. Creamy and comforting, this is a great family meal to share.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe!
I make Penne Rustica often because this recipe makes a lot of food. It is the perfect thing to make when you want to share and take dinner to someone who just had a baby or is sick. It makes enough to feed their family and my own family. If you need to feed a crowd, it doubles easily and can be made ahead!
What is Penne Rustica?
Penne Rustica is a signature dish that was made famous by Romano’s Macaroni Grill Restaurant. It is a rich, creamy pasta dish with roasted chicken, shrimp, smoked prosciutto with a rich rosemary parmesan cream sauce
- Grilled chicken breasts. I marinade the chicken in olive oil and garlic salt overnight and then grill on the barbecue for the best flavor. You can also use leftover shredded chicken you have on hand.
- Bacon. I like to use thick bacon. The original recipe called for pancetta but that can be difficult to find. You could also use prosciutto.
- Penne Pasta
- Red bell pepper
- Cheese. You will need both grated Parmesan cheese and Mozzarella cheese.
This sauce is a creamy, rich white sauce made with butter, cream and seasoning and is similar to a béchamel sauce but is made without flour.
- Butter. Use unsalted butter and add salt as needed
- Garlic. Fresh, chopped
- Marsala Cooking Wine. You can also substitute this with 1/4 cup apple juice and 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar.
- Chicken Broth
- Dijon Mustard
- Rosemary. I like to use a fresh rosemary spring but you if using dried rosemary, use half the amount.
- Cayenne Pepper
- Heavy Cream
How to Make Gratinata Sauce
- Sauté butter and garlic in a large pan.
- Pour in wine (or apple juice and red wine vinegar) and chicken broth.
- Add mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream and stir until smooth. Allow it to simmer but not boil.
How to Make Penne Rustica
- Cook the pasta to al dente stage, drain.
- Cook bacon in a frying pan until crisp.
- Slice grilled chicken into medium-bite size pieces
- In a large bowl, combine sauce, cooked pasta, chicken mixture, cooked bacon, bell peppers, parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly
- Spread in pans. It will fill two large casserole dish, 9 x 13 baking dishes.
- Sprinkle with some additional chopped rosemary and mozzarella cheese
- Bake penne rustica in a 475 F oven for 10 minutes or until heated through and it begins to turn lightly golden brown on top.
Tips from Leigh Anne
- When cooking pasta for the penne rustica be careful not to overcook the pasta. You want it to be al dente, slightly undercooked. It will continue to cook and soften up as the pasta dish bakes in the oven. If you over cook it you will end up with mushy pasta.
Everytime I take this to a family it gets rave reviews. Kids and adults love it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make penne rustica ahead of time?
This is a perfect make ahead dish. The entire dish can be assembled ahead of time and kept covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days until you are ready to bake and serve.
Can I freeze penne rustica?
This dish freezes well. I like to freeze it in disposable aluminum 9 x 13 pans. Fill the pan, cover with plastic wrap and then with foil, making sure it is airtight. Then freeze for up to 3 months.
What is the best way to reheat pasta?
Allow the frozen pasta to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake in a 450 degree F oven until heated through.
Can I add shrimp to it?
The original restaurant version does have shrimp but I leave it out as I have non shrimp lovers at our house. If you want shrimp, add in about 12 small, peel and devained shrimp. Add the shrimp in with the chicken and cook until it is pink.
For some other yummy pasta dishes, check out:
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- 2. grilled chicken breasts marinade in olive oil and garlic salt overnight, then grill on barbecue for best flavor
- 6 strips thick bacon
- 1 lb. penne pasta 1 box
- 1 red bell peppers diced
- 1 /3 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup apple juice or marsala cooking wine
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar omit if using marsala cooking wine
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Sauté garlic in butter in large pan
- Measure apple juice in a measuring cup. Add the red wine vinegar and enough chicken broth to equal 1/3 cup.
- Add apple juice mixture, mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream. Allow it to warm but not boil.
- In another pan, cook pasta according to directions
- Cook bacon in a frying pan until crisp.
- Slice cooked chicken into medium-bite size pieces
- Combine sauce, cooked pasta, diced chicken, cooked bacon, bell peppers, parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly
- Spread in pans
- Top with some additional chopped rosemary and mozzarella cheese
- Bake @ 475 for 10 minutes
Tips & Notes:
- When cooking pasta be careful not to overcook it. You want it to be al dente, slightly undercooked. It will continue to cook and soften up as the pasta dish bakes in the oven. If you over cook it you will end up with mushy pasta.
- The original restaurant version does have shrimp but I leave it out as I have non shrimp lovers at our house. If you want shrimp, add in about 12 small, peel and devained shrimp. Add the shrimp in with the chicken and cook until it is pink.