Monday, March 4, 2013

Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica {copycat recipe}

It's freezer cooking time, I am in the cooking mood and my kitchen is on fire. I've made 5 dinners in a row this week and doubled every recipe in order to get 5 extra freezer meals for my cousin. I was so excited to share these extra meals with my aunt who is visiting from Washington, my cousin, her husband and their brand new baby girl Nikki. My cousin just had her first baby 3 weeks ago and I wanted to share some of my freezer meals with them to help make dinner time a little easier.

Today, I made this amazingly delicious pasta recipe. I might even go as far as to say "this is the BEST pasta dish I've ever made". This recipe is wonderful, it's out of this world delicious and it will for sure be repeated in my house (probably sooner then later) and you can bet it will make it into my Volume 3 Family Cookbook. It's a copycat recipe of the Macaroni Grill chain restaurant Penne Rustica recipe, I don't eat at Macaroni Grill, I think I've only been there once or twice in my life, so I have no idea how this recipe compares to the real recipe, but I can tell you this recipe here is amazing.

Look at this darling little girl. I am a baby lover at heart and since my babies are 19 years old and 13 years old, there are no babies in my life and therefore I get to go and steal all of my family members new babies.

This recipe makes ALOT and I mean ALOT of pasta dishes. It's a perfect freezer meal, a perfect meal to share with a new mom or a friend or family member who may need a little help with the dinner time blues. You can always half the recipe if you wish, but I will be sharing the FULL recipe here, it makes about (3) 9x13 pans. Since my family is only a family of 3 I made our dishes in very small Purex baking dishes and I was able to make (2) 9x13 pans that I shared with my cousin and (5) smaller baking dishes that I keep for my family, and boy am I so glad I have 4 more of these left in my freezer.

I did cheat a little and use pasta we had on hand, I made up one box of Penne pasta and two boxes of Shell pasta. I also made a few other changes to this recipe by using my standard Crock-Pot Chicken recipe and shredding it (only because my hubby wasn't home to BBQ the chicken and because it's cold outside and not BBQ season), I think I will try it this way once we dust off the BBQ. I also used Turkey Bacon instead of regular bacon (and only because Turkey Bacon was on sale and it was cheap, like half the price of regular bacon) and since I know it's healthier, why not.

I've already had the opportunity to make up one of my small dishes. It worked out wonderful for this small one/two person serving dish to be cooked up in my toaster oven. A-MAZ-ING!

Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica {copycat recipe}
adapted by me, Tina, originally found over at Your Homebased Mom

FREEZER MEAL: This is a freezer meal and will make at least (3) 9x13 pans of pasta. If you wish to make just one dish or a smaller portion, you will need to cut the recipe in thirds or half.

1 whole chicken using Crock-Pot Chicken recipe; shredded and then add 1 to 2 tsp garlic salt
or 12 oz grilled chicken breast (marinate in olive oil and garlic salt overnight, then grill on barbecue for best flavor)

2 full packages of turkey bacon
48 oz. (3 boxes) penne pasta (or your favorite pasta); cook al dente about 6-8 minutes
2 large red bell peppers; diced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese; use fresh
½ to 1 tsp paprika
1 to 2 cups Monterrey Jack Cheese; grated for garnish on top

2 tsp butter
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup liquid (I used half 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup apple juice with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar or you can use 1 cup marsala wine)
1 tsp dijon or dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped rosemary; use fresh for best flavor
¼ tsp (or more) cayenne pepper
8 cups heavy cream (yes 8 cups is alot, and you will need 4 small pint containers)

Chop and prepare everything first. Shred chicken, dice up red peppers, and start cooking your bacon. Chopped up the turkey bacon first before you cook it, saves time later and it's so much easier to cook. Then get your water boiling for the 3 packages of noodles, use a really large pan if you are cooking all 3 packages at once.

Sauté garlic in butter in large pan. Add liquid (chicken broth mixture), mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream. Cook to a soft boil.

Combine sauce, cooked pasta, shredded chicken, cooked bacon, bell peppers, Parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly. Spread into pans; top with Monterrey Cheese and sprinkle of paprika.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour. Remove foil during the last 15 minutes, cheese with brown on top and it will begin to bubble.

FREEZER MEAL: Thaw in refrigerator the day of cooking and then follow above directions.


  1. This looks simply delicious! I love Penne Rustica!

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  3. Cuisine very well make sense. Thank you mom.

  4. I have made this dish many times and it's always my go to recipe for company! LUV IT!! Makes my house smell like an Italian restaurant. mmmmmmm.....

  5. That is one cute baby! Pasta looks good too :-)

  6. I've ordered this dish at Macaroni Grill and made this copycat recipe. The copycat recipe is delicious--every bit as good as Macaroni Grill's. What a darling babe. I'm sure the new mother will appreciate the meals. What a kind gesture.

  7. Made this dish tonight. It made 6 half pans to freeze and 1 for tomorrow night! Can't wait to try it!


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