Loaded with two types of cheese and homemade Italian meatballs, this Meatball Mac and Cheese can be served as a main dish or as a side. This may look like fancy mac and cheese, but it’s so easy to make!
I’m no stranger to making homemade mac and cheese. Although a box of Kraft mac and cheese hits the spot now and then, homemade is always so much better.
Rich, cheesy, and creamy, this loaded mac and cheese features two types of cheese and homemade meatballs. While I’m sure you could substitute store-bought frozen meatballs, I wanted to share my go-to meatball recipe. It’s just that good!
Serve this meatball mac and cheese as a main dish or as a hearty side. It pairs nicely with a simple green salad or steamed veggies.
This is comfort food at its finest. Make it for your next family gathering or dinner party, your guests will love it!
Ingredients for Meatball Mac and Cheese
This recipe is essentially baked rigatoni and meatballs, in mac and cheese form. You’ll definitely want seconds!
Here’s what you’ll need to make the homemade meatballs and the mac and cheese base:
- Ground beef
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley
- All-purpose flour
- Dried herbs and spices
- Fontina cheese
- Rigatoni pasta
- Tomato basil pasta sauce
How to Make Meatball Mac and Cheese
This may be a “fancy” mac and cheese recipe, but it’s actually easy to make. Here’s an overview of the cooking process:
Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, milk, eggs, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Shape the mixture into 12 balls and place onto a parchment-lined pan.
Bake at 425ºF until cook through. Set aside.
- Make the mac and cheese: Lower oven temperature to 375°F.
In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.
Whisk in the milk, garlic, and spices. Cook until the mixture is thickened.
Stir in 1 cup Parmesan and 1 cup fontina until melted. Remove from heat.
Stir in cooked rigatoni until combined.
Top with meatballs, pasta sauce, and remaining ½ cup of Parmesan and fontina cheeses.
Bake until bubbly and cheese is melted.
How Long Do You Bake Mac and Cheese?
Because the meatballs and pasta have been cooked already, you only need to bake the meatball mac and cheese until golden on top and bubbly around the edges. I recommend baking the mac and cheese for 20 minutes at 375ºF.
What to Eat with Mac and Cheese
This rigatoni and meatballs mac and cheese is a meal in itself. I prefer keeping the sides simpler so the focus of the meal is on the creamy homemade mac and cheese.
If you’re unsure which mac and cheese sides to serve, here are some of my favorites:
- Lemon Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
- Apple Cranberry Pecan Salad
- Roasted Garlic Cauliflower
- Parmesan Honey Roasted Carrots
- Roasted Garlic Green Beans
How to Reheat Mac and Cheese
Since this is a baked mac and cheese recipe, I recommend reheating larger portions in the oven (350ºF for about 15 minutes). Otherwise, you can gently reheat smaller portions on the stovetop. You may need to add some water to the pan to prevent the meatball mac and cheese from drying out.
If possible, avoid reheating mac and cheese in the microwave. The pasta often drys out and / or becomes rubbery.
Tips for Making Fancy Mac and Cheese
- For the mac and cheese add ins, I stuck to homemade meatballs and two types of cheese. You’re welcome to experiment with extra add ins, if desired.
- For extra richness and creaminess, you can make this mac and cheese with heavy cream. I would use equal amounts of milk and creamy to make this ultra delicious.
- I prefer using rigatoni pasta for this recipe, as the bigger noodles hold more of the cheese and tomato sauces. However, any short, sturdy pasta shape can be used.
- I’ve only made this recipe using homemade meatballs, but I imagine frozen meatballs that have been thawed can be substituted. I can’t say for certain, though.
Looking for More Easy Mac and Cheese Recipes?
- Stovetop Creamy Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese
- Microwave Mac and Cheese in a Mug
Meatball Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) OR Italian-style breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup milk, any kind (I used 2%)
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Macaroni and Cheese
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk, any kind (I used 2%)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 1½ cups shredded fontina cheese divided (gouda, provolone or gruyere can also be used)
- 1 package (16 ounces) rigatoni pasta cooked according to package directions
- 1 jar (24 ounces) tomato-basil pasta sauce
- To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, milk, eggs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Shape mixture into 12 (1½-inch) balls and place onto prepared pan.
- Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Macaroni and Cheese:
- Preheat (or lower) oven temperature to 375°F.
- In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly.
- Whisk in milk, garlic, salt, oregano, red pepper, and nutmeg. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan and 1 cup fontina until melted. Remove from heat.
- Stir in cooked pasta until combined. Top with meatballs, pasta sauce, and remaining ½ cup of Parmesan and fontina cheeses.
- Bake until bubbly and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Recipe from Cast Iron Comfort Food Magazine - 2017