I love mac n' cheese, but it’s not a really a meal, and I confess, I rarely make a meal with more than one dish. I love casseroles, Buddha bowls, burritos, anything where dinner comes one convenient package. It’s not just about ease of preparation (although that’s certainly part of it) it’s also about creating complex flavors. I like my protein, starch and veggie together. I’ve seen macaroni versions that are complete meals—cheeseburger mac n' cheese, taco mac n' cheese—and I wanted to create my own, so I combine mac and cheese with another favorite pasta dish, lasagna. The result is creamy, cheesy, and full of Italian flavor.
Lasagna’s layers keep the textures distinct, but in mac and cheese, I used chunky ingredients—cottage cheese and diced tomatoes—to create bursts of contrasting flavor. the crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs on top add another textural element and mimic the crisp edges of baked pasta.
Pro Tip: For a meaty version, add 1 lb. cooked and crumbled Italian sausage or ground beef to noodles in step 3.