Filipino-style baked macaroni is a classic pasta dish with its meaty sauce and cheesy topping.
1 pound macaroni
For the meat sauce:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic head, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt, divided
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
For the béchamel sauce:
3 cups milk
⅓ cup butter
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water. Undercook by 3 minutes. It will continue to cook in the oven.
- Make the meat sauce: In the video, I pulsed the garlic, onions, and bell peppers in a food processor. You may instead finely chop them by hand. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the garlic, onions, and bell peppers. Cook until they are softened and mostly dry. Add a teaspoon of salt and some ground pepper. Add the tomato paste in and cook until it turns brownish, about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, a teaspoon of salt and some ground pepper, and mix it up. Cook until the beef has browned well (cooking it well before adding the sauce gives the sauce a good flavor), about 15 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and about 2 cups of water. Add the rest of the seasonings – the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, some ground pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, bay leaves, and sugar. Lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust to your liking – you may need to add more salt or sugar, depending on the kind of tomato sauce/paste you are using. Remove the bay leaves when done cooking. Set aside.
- Make the béchamel sauce: Warm the milk in the microwave. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until it forms a paste. Cook the roux (butter and flour mixture) for about 2 minutes, until the flour is cooked and turns slightly darker. Whisk in some milk to loosen up the thick roux. Add the remaining milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Constantly whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. The sauce will get thicker as it cools. Set aside.
- Assemble and bake: Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Prepare a 3-quart oven-safe dish. I used a 13x9x3 rectangular dish. Combine the pasta and the sauce. Lightly pack in the dish and pour the béchamel sauce on top, spreading evenly. Add both cheddar and mozzarella cheese on top. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the top has nicely browned. Let it rest before serving. Enjoy!
If you want to skip the baking part, combine the béchamel sauce and the grated cheese. Pour it over the pasta and serve.
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