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.
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.
- Traditionally, this pasta dish is made with elbow macaroni, often called melcisiori in Romania.
- However, any short shaped pasta si fine.
- 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!
- 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.
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!
Traditional Romanian comfort food:
Sarmale - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Stuffed Peppers with Mince in Tomato Sauce
Sarmale - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Romanian Mac and Cheese (Romanian Pasta)
- 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
- 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.
- In the meantime grate or crumble the cheese.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Laura Dembowski says
I love that this is so easy. It looks incredibly comforting as well.
Thank you, Laura. One of my favorite childhood dishes!
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!
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!