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Romanian Mac and Cheese (Romanian Pasta)

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Classic Romanian mac and cheese with feta made with only three ingredients in a skillet. Served with or without sugar.

Romanian mac and cheese or macaroane cu branza, this pasta dish is one of the most popular Romanian comfort foods, especially among kids.

The Easiest Skillet Macaroni and Cheese – Romanian Recipe

Macaroni and cheese, comfort food all around the world, there must be a billion recipes and variations out there. Why another one? Well, you have to know the Romanian version as well.

It is slightly different than the creamy American version, it is made in a cast iron skillet, and the cooked macaroni mixed with cheese are lightly fried before serving. And the best about the recipe? You serve the noodles sprinkled with sugar! Heaven for any child! Sugar for lunch!

This Romanian pasta dish was one of my favorite meals as a child. We didn’t have noodles often in Romania during those times, actually I can only remember eating pasta in three variations: this recipe, sweet noodles cooked in milk, and the unbelievably overcooked noodles my grandma sometimes made as a side dish for stew.

The Easiest Skillet Macaroni and Cheese – Romanian Recipe

Ingredients

Pasta:

  • Traditionally, this pasta dish is made with elbow macaroni, often called melcisiori in Romania.
  • However, any short shaped pasta si fine.

Cheese:

  • My grandmother used to always make this dish with telemea – that is a Romanian kind of feta, made of cow’s or sheep’s milk. It comes in big white blocks and has different degrees of saltiness and creaminess. Feta is a very close substitute, either cow or sheep feta.
  • But whatever you do, use feta from a block, not the already crumbled kind.
  • Alternatively, use Gouda or Cheddar instead. Not traditional and definitely another flavor, but good! I’ve done it and it tastes great!
  • I’ve also cooked this dish with different kinds of cheese rests I found in the fridge as well. It is cheese, after all, you cannot really go wrong!
The Easiest Skillet Macaroni and Cheese – Romanian Recipe

Sugar:

  • Why the sugar? No idea!
  • But the sugar makes this dish something special, the contrast between the salty cheese and the sweet sugar.
  • It is optional but so good! Try it first to see if you like it. I grew up with it and I adore it but don’t sprinkle your whole plate with sugar before trying it first on a smaller portion.
  • I am sure your kids will love the sugary noodles, this is definitely children’s food.
The Easiest Skillet Macaroni and Cheese – Romanian Recipe

How to make macaroane cu branza?

  • Cook the noodles according to the packet’s instructions, drain them.
  • Add them to a cast iron pan, mix with the crumbled (grated) cheese.
  • Fry in a bit of oil until you get those crispy and delicious golden brown spots here and there.
  • That is the big secret of my grandma’s mac and cheese: those crispy brown spots, the contrast between the soft comforting noodles and those crunchy and hearty brown spots! And the sugar!
The Easiest Skillet Macaroni and Cheese – Romanian Recipe

Traditional Romanian comfort food:

Sarmale – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Potato Moussaka

Romanian Meatball Soup

Stuffed Peppers with Mince in Tomato Sauce

Sarmale – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

skillet pasta with cheese with a wooden spoon

Romanian Mac and Cheese (Romanian Pasta)

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Classic Romanian mac and cheese with feta (or macaroane cu branza) made with only three ingredients in a skillet. Served with or without sugar.

Ingredients

  • 500 g/ 1.1 lbs elbow macaroni (or other short pasta shapes)
  • 300 g/ 10.5 oz feta cheese or Romanian telemea (Note)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • sugar, optional to serve

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the packet's instructions. Drain.
  2. In the meantime grate or crumble the cheese.
  3. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or another large pan. Add the noodles and the cheese to the pan and mix very well. Add some salt, if the feta you use is not very salty or if you use another kind of cheese.
  4. Fry the macaroni and cheese until crispy golden brown spots start to appear here and there. Stir often. Stop when the cheese is melted and you think that the macaroni has enough golden brown spots, about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately either plain or sprinkled with sugar. Try the sugar version on a smaller portion to see if you like it. If you do (which you probably will) add more.

Notes

Instead of feta or Romanian telemea, you could use most any other kind of cheese, I have repeatedly made this dish with Gouda or Cheddar as well. Sometimes I also mix different kinds of cheese rests I can find in the fridge.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/6 of the dish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 459mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 12g

Nutritional information is not always accurate.

Maria

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Hello!! Just found your blog as I was researching Pasta recipes in Romania for a video my husband and I are making. Hope we can easily find it in restaurants so we can film, and find some more info about behaviors around this dish, like, is it eaten for lunch or dinner, part of celebrations? just daily meal, and so on. Thank you for all the great info and recipe here!

Adina

Thursday 15th of July 2021

Hi Maria. Thank you for the comment. I'm not sure you can find macaroane cu branza in restaurants, at least I've never seen the dish on a menu. It's the kind of dish that people eat at home, I suppose. I wish you luck!

Laura Dembowski

Wednesday 20th of December 2017

I love that this is so easy. It looks incredibly comforting as well.

Adina

Monday 25th of December 2017

Thank you, Laura. One of my favorite childhood dishes!

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