Ricotta Mac and Cheese with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs is the perfect side dish to add to your Thanksgiving menu! It’s made in nearly one pot, and requires no oven time. The ricotta helps create the most luxuriously creamy cheese sauce, without having to make a béchamel! All you need is a little starchy pasta water magic, and a few other ingredients. The garlic butter breadcrumbs send this one over the top!
I’m gracing your presence today with a ricotta mac and cheese recipe that doesn’t require making a béchamel! Which essentially means, you’re not making a roux, thickening it with milk, and adding cheese gradually. Instead, you’re using RICOTTA and the magic of starchy pasta water. Plus, a little milk, cream, cheddar, monterey jack, and some spices. The ricotta helps create the most beautiful sauce, and it comes together super quickly! An added bonus: it’s made in nearly one pot (minus the breadcrumb topping), and requires no coveted oven time! Which means, it deserves a spot at your Thanksgiving table. 🙂
I’m on team “cozy/creamy dishes always need a textural element”.
This creamy ricotta mac and cheese is made exponentially better with the addition of garlic butter breadcrumbs. How can you go wrong with golden brown breadcrumbs toasted in garlic butter? Especially when it’s blanketing (is that even a word?) perfectly al dente pasta coated in ricotta cheese sauce.
The garlic butter breadcrumbs can be made ahead of time.
They come together in a few minutes, and only require 3 ingredients. Butter, garlic, and panko breadcrumbs. (Plus a little salt & pepper)! All you have to do is melt the butter over medium heat, add your garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, until fragrant, and then add your breadcrumbs. Toast those babies until they’re golden brown, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Transfer them to a bowl and you’re all set!
If you’re making this recipe for a holiday or ahead of time for a party, you can make the breadcrumbs the morning of. Too much earlier and they can get a little stale.
The trifecta of cheeses I use here: ricotta of course, sharp cheddar, and monterey jack!
Ricotta is a must, cheddar is preferred, but I will leave the third up to you. Monterey jack is great and melts really well, but gouda would also be amazing here, and so would fontina. Any creamy, melty cheese that you can freshly grate is good in my book!
Here’s what you need for this ricotta mac and cheese:
any short cut pasta (I love cavatappi for mac and cheese)
whole milk ricotta
salt & pepper
If you’re in a pinch, you can also use half & half instead of the whole milk and heavy cream.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to make this ricotta mac and cheese:
- Make the garlic butter breadcrumbs. Melt the butter over medium heat, add your garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant, then add your panko breadcrumbs. Toast, stirring frequently, until they’re golden brown. Transfer them to a bowl to prevent them from burning from the residual heat of the pan. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.
- Prep your ingredients for the mac and cheese. You want everything to be ready, because the actual “mac” comes together really quickly. Measure your ricotta, grate your cheeses, measure your milk and cream, find your spices in the cabinet, etc. 🙂
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta. The key here is to cook the pasta a couple minutes shy of al dente, because it will continue to cook quite a bit while you stir to create the sauce. And do not forget to reserve your pasta water before you drain it!
- After you drain the pasta, make a quick garlic butter in the same hot pot. You know the drill, melt the butter over medium heat, add your garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the pasta and create the sauce. Add the pasta and the pasta water to your garlic butter, as well as your ricotta. Stir to combine. Add the milk, heavy cream, dijon, nutmeg, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Gradually add the cheddar and monterey jack, stirring constantly to create the creamy sauce. Keep stirring, it will come together!
- Season to taste, and top with breadcrumbs. Taste the mac and cheese and add any additional salt & pepper you think it might need. Lastly, top with the garlic butter breadcrumbs and serve immediately!
I know, it’s too good to be true.
If you love this recipe, you will also love:
Hidden Zucchini Mac and Cheese with Garlic Brown Butter Breadcrumbs
Lobster Mac and Cheese
One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Creamy Pumpkin Cottage Cheese Pasta
Pumpkin Kale Lasagna
Lemon Ricotta Asparagus Pasta Salad with Bacon
Creamy Lemon Lobster Fettuccine
Burrata Baked Ziti
Don’t forget to share a photo on Instagram and tag me @spicesinmydna if you make this recipe! Nothing makes me happier than seeing what you create in the kitchen!
Ricotta Mac and Cheese with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs
Ricotta Mac and Cheese with Garlic Butter Breadcrumbs is the perfect side dish to add to your Thanksgiving menu! It's made in nearly one pot, and requires no oven time. The ricotta helps create the most luxuriously creamy cheese sauce, without having to make a roux! All you need is a little starchy pasta water magic, and a few other ingredients. The garlic butter breadcrumbs send this one over the top!
For the garlic butter breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
For the mac and cheese
- 1 pound of your favorite short-cut pasta (I like to use cavatappi here)
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- small pinch ground nutmeg
- small pinch cayenne pepper
- small pinch smoked paprika
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 4 ounces monterey jack cheese, freshly grated
Begin by making the breadcrumbs. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to combine with the garlic butter. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring almost constantly, until they're golden brown. Transfer immediately to a bowl to cool. Set aside.
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta about 2 minutes shy of al dente (it will continue to cook in the sauce). Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water before you drain!!! In the same pot, melt the butter and add the garlic, Sauté for 30 seconds - 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Adjust heat to low, add the pasta and pasta water and stir to combine. Add the ricotta and begin to stir to combine.Add the salt, dijon, nutmeg, cayenne, smoked paprika, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the milk and heavy cream and stir, stir, stir! You should see the sauce start to come together. Gradually add the cheddar and monterey jack, stirring between each addition. Keep stirring and stirring until the sauce comes together and coats the pasta. Be patient, it will come together I promise! Add another splash of milk/cream/pasta water if it seems like it needs additional moisture. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
Sprinkle the garlic butter breadcrumbs over the mac and cheese. Serve immediately.