Copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica Recipe


This decadent dish with roasted chicken, shrimp, smoked prosciutto, and pasta in a creamy parmesan sauce tastes almost identical to Macaroni Grill’s famous Penne Rustica.

Copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica Recipe

What is Penne Rustica?

Penne Rustica is a signature dish that is trademarked by Romano’s Macaroni Grill. It is a rich, robust pasta dish with roasted chicken, shrimp, smoked prosciutto, and a rich rosemary parmesan cream sauce (gratinata). 

My friend and cousin Angela from Nashville, TN, was raving about a copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica recipe a few weeks ago, so I decided to try it out over the Christmas holidays. Oh. My. Glory! It is literally one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever put in my mouth! We had friends over for dinner when I served this, and they literally raved!

Penne Rustica is the most popular menu item (and my personal favorite dish) at Macaroni Grill. I slightly adapted this recipe to make the version below that everyone raved about during our Christmas party dining.

copycat macaroni grill penne rustica recipe

How to Make Penne Rustica Ahead of Time

The chicken, gratinata sauce, and pasta can be made up to one day ahead and refrigerated until just before assembling and baking the dish. Once the dish is assembled, you can store it in the fridge several hours before finishing it in the oven.

Helpful Tools for Making This Dish

  • A good pasta pot boils pasta and has a lid to pour off water (and eliminate the need for a drainer). I love this one with the glass lid.
  • These oval au gratin baking dishes on amazon are replicas of the Macaroni Grill dishes and a fun way to serve this entree in individual portions.
  • A 12-inch sauté skillet is helpful for sautéing the shrimp and for whisking the gratinata sauce.

If you try this copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica recipe, please leave your thoughts and comments! I love hearing from readers and welcome any feedback!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by my site. Have a blessed, joyful, and savvy day!!!

Copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica Recipe

Copycat Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 TB marsala wine (or high quality balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 12 oz penne or ziti pasta
  • 12 medium shrimp
  • 2 TB butter (may use 1 TB butter + 1 TB EVOO)
  • 1 lb grilled/smoked chicken strips
  • 2 oz. thick-sliced smoked prosciutto, chopped
  • 3 TB grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika


Gratinata Sauce

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the garlic and shallot; saute over low heat 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the marsala wine or balsamic vinegar; simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining sauce ingredients; whisk well until smooth.
  5. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisk continually until sauce thickens.*
  6. Remove sauce from heat; set aside or refrigerate until ready to make the dish.

Pasta Layer:

  1. Boil pasta until al dente; drain, drizzle with EVOO; set aside.
  2. Spray large baking dish with EVOO or avocado oil spray.
  3. Saute shrimp n butter and/or EVOO until no longer transluscent.
  4. Cut shrimp into bite size pieces; set aside.
  5. Combine 3 TB parmesan with 1 1/2 tsp paprika; set aside.
  6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  7. Pour pasta into large bowl; add chicken, shrimp and prosciutto.
  8. Pour gratinata sauce over; mix with a spoon until well coated.
  9. Pour pasta into baking dish; pour gratinata sauce over all, using large spoon to mix well.
  10. Sprinkle parmesan/paprika mixture on top.
  11. Bake for 10 minutes or until top begins to brown and dish begins to bubble at the edges.


*The sauce takes roughly 10 minutes to thicken.

Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 677Total Fat 45gSaturated Fat 26gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 190mgSodium 1625mgCarbohydrates 34gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 34g

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  1. Hey! I actually work at the macaroni grill. If you can’t get the flavor of the sauce we use on the rustica and Milano just right it might be the mustard! We use zaxbys Cajun mustard not Dijon. Also we use more Marsala wine ( 5tb Marsala and 1tb white) . As far as the rustica I find a lot of the flavor comes from the roasted red peppers Liquid we put in when we top it before putting it in the salamander to finish off. It’s about 3oz of the juices that come in the can of roasted reds we get shipped in.
    Also another tip- the sauce shouldn’t be freshly hot when adding. It needs to all be mixed cold and then you cook it all off with the shrimp and proc in the pan while it’s smoking hot and the shrimp are already cooked then it goes into the oven with the pasta and topped with reds to finish off. For some reason we find it adds much more flavor doing it that way. It’s the same exact sauce we use for the Milano but the red pepper liquid adds most of the difference with the rustica.
    1 more thing! We don’t use 1 cup grated parm. We use 1/2 cup grated and 1/2 cup shredded presh imported parm which adds a sharpness to the sauce

  2. Great recipe! We added artichokes mushrooms and roasted red peppers. We used milk and half and half instead of heavy cream and added 1/2 c Pinot Grigio to thin out the sauce. This is definitely a recipe we’ll keep for the future!

  3. Hi Anthony! I am so glad to hear this; I’ll be using roasted red pepper from now on!!! Thank you so much for sharing your inside info with us!!! Blessings to you!!!

  4. I worked for Mac for 11 years and you’ve gotten all the ingredients down. If you really want to nit pick, the roasted red pepper is the garnish vs pimento, but most guests pick it off anyway

  5. Hi Elle! I am so glad you enjoyed this; it is one of our favorite dishes! The smoked salmon sounds intriguing; I’ll have to try it. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you!!!! Xo

  6. This was amazing! I didn’t have shallots or pimentos and I used light cream instead of heavy. Also, my bf doesn’t eat meat so I used smoked salmon instead of prosciutto. It was still really good and I can’t wait to make it again. Thanks!

  7. Hi Kristie! I am so glad you found Family Savvy and are finding some things you enjoy; thank you for letting me know! I love hearing from readers, so keep in touch!

  8. Just wanted to drop a note to say I stumbled onto your site searching for chick fil a super food salad and have enjoyed viewing some of your other posts! I’ve already pinned a few recipes and really appreciate that you include links to the products you are using:) great job and thank you!

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