A favorite Egyptian comfort food recipe, Baked Penne Pasta with Bechamel Sauce is made with the simplest of ingredients and is ready in under an hour. A crowd-pleasing dish, it’ll have your guests begging for seconds! 

Baked Penne Pasta with Bechamel Sauce

What Is Macarona Bechamel? 

Baked penne pasta, also referred to as Macarona Bechamel ( مكرونة بشاميل) is a classic Egyptian recipe that many kids grow up eating. There are many different variations, but it always contains spiced beef, pasta noodles, and creamy bechamel sauce. Similar to American macaroni and cheese or lasagna, it’s often served as a weeknight comfort food and is always a hit at the dinner table! This baked pasta version is closest to what we grew up eating, but we’ve also made macarona bechamel in one pot, too! 

Ingredients You’ll Need for Baked Penne Pasta

  • Unsalted Butter
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Whole Milk
  • Spices and Seasonings
  • Ground Beef
  • Penne Pasta
a casserole dish full of baked penne with bechamel sauce

How to Make the Best Macarona Bechamel 

  1. Start by cooking the penne pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles, and set them aside. 
  2. Cook the beef with spices until it is no longer pink. 
  3. Next, make your bechamel sauce. To do so, melt the butter in a saucepan, and whisk in the flour. Then, add in part of the warmed milk, and continue to whisk constantly until the ingredients are thick in creamy. Mix in the seasonings, and stir again. Remove the sauce from the heat, and let it sit and thicken for 10 minutes. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  5. Add the cooked penne to a large bowl along with part of the bechamel sauce and more warm milk. Stir until the noodles are well coated
  6. Layer half of the noodle mixture in a casserole dish. Sprinkle the ground beef on top, add remaining layer of penne and pour the bechamel sauce over it all. 
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is golden and browned on top. 
  8. Let cool, and enjoy

Should My Casserole Dish Be Covered or Uncovered? 

Leave the baked pasta uncovered while in the oven! This will help create the beautiful golden topping. However, you’ll want to make sure to keep an eye on your baked penne pasta to ensure it doesn’t burn. 

Can I Use Lasagna Sheets Instead of Penne? 

Traditional Macarona Bechamel incorporates penne noodles. However, if you want to swap them out for lasagna sheets, you absolutely can! Just be sure to cook them thoroughly, and spread the bechamel sauce evenly on top before layering the beef. 

Make-Ahead Options

Baked penne pasta is a perfect recipe for meal prep! Once cooked, it will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days

Or, keep it in the freezer either cooked or uncooked for 4-6 months! If freezing this recipe before cooking it in the oven, layer all of the ingredients first. Then, let it thaw in the fridge overnight or bake it from frozen as the instructions state. If baking from frozen, you may need to adjust the cooking time to ensure the dish is warmed thoroughly and browned on top. 

Baked Penne Pasta with Bechamel Sauce in a casserole dish with a serving missing

More Baked Pasta Recipes

If you’re like us and can’t get enough easy pasta recipes, we have plenty more for you to check out!

  • Not exactly authentic, this Oven Baked Spaghetti went viral for a reason. It’s tasty, quick, and so easy to make! 
  • This Greek Pasta Bake is bursting with so much color and flavor that it’ll make you feel like you’re on the shores of the Mediterranean in the summer. 
  • Addictively delicious, Crack Chicken Pasta Bake comes together with minimal time and dishes so you can get in and out of the kitchen in no time!
  • Creamy and decadent, Truffle Mac and Cheese is fancy enough for holidays but easy enough for a Monday.

baked penne with bechamel sauce

Egyptian Macarona Bechamel

4.86 from 7 votes
Author: Food Dolls
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
A classic Egyptian recipe, baked penne pasta is layered with penne noodles, spiced beef, and bechamel sauce browned to creamy perfection!

Ingredients  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt more or less to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cooked penne pasta cooked al dente

Instructions 

  • Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium-high heat, breaking it apart constantly until no longer pink. Drain any fat.
    1 pound lean ground beef
  • Add diced onion, minced garlic, cardamom, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon to the cooked ground beef. Reduce heat and sauté until onions are translucent. Set aside.
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 yellow onion
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the unsalted butter. Whisk in the all-purpose flour, then gradually whisk in the 8 cups of milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the kosher salt, cinnamon, and black pepper. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup unsalted butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 8 cups whole milk, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked penne pasta with 3 cups of the prepared béchamel sauce. Stir until the sauce coats all the pasta.
    1 pound cooked penne pasta
  • Spread half of the penne mixture into a buttered 13×9-inch baking dish.
  • Spread the cooked ground beef mixture evenly over the penne layer.
  • Top with the remaining penne mixture.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Keep an eye on it during the last 10 minutes to prevent burning.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 581kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 934mg | Potassium: 634mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1108IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 327mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this recipe?Please leave a comment!

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Meet Alia & Radwa

Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

4.86 from 7 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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26 Comments

  1. Recipes are super easy.. I get lots of compliments.. marry me one was my first.. I’m hooked! shared with my daughters!

  2. Is it 6 cups of milk or 8 cups?

    Also, step three mentions 6 cups of “hot milk,” but there’s no step or instructions on how to heat the milk. Is this done in the same saucepan or microwave before adding to the saucepan?

    Lastly, the instructions only mention mixing three cups of the sauce with the pasta before assembly and subsequent oven baking. What’s done with the remainder of the sauce if you’re using 6-8 cups of milk? I’m so confused!

    1. Good catch! It is 8 cups of milk and we just adjusted the recipe. No need to be hot.

      The remainder of the sauce gets added after you have layered the pasta and ground beef. You add the remainder of the bechamel, then bake in the oven. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. 5 stars
    This is by far my favorite Egyptian meal! It’s basically Egyptian lasagna.

    It can be a bit time consuming but oh so worth it!!

    I sometimes like to add just a smidge of tomatoe paste to the bechamel to give it a pink hue (without noticing a difference in taste)

    Thank you Food Dolls for simplifying this recipe and making it easy to follow along.

  4. I’m also confused about the directions for cooking the ground beef. There’s no ingredient amounts for the seasoning when cooking the ground beef just a (list of ingredients in parentheses). Is it just play it by taste or a pinch of each? Or is it the amounts listed and add to both the sauce and the beef? Or 1/2 of each ingredient amount listed in sauce and half in the beef while browning?
    The calories per serving seem extremely high also. Is this because of the butter and whole milk? How big of a serving is the 4k calorie count? One slice 4”x4” perhaps?
    Love your recipes! Marry Me Chicken has become a staple in my kitchen!

    1. Hi Michele,

      The seasoning amounts are listed in the recipe card at the bottom of the page! (Step 2)
      The calories are roughly 581 for a big serving. This is due to the richness of the dish.
      Hope this helps! We’re so glad you enjoy the recipes!

      Xo,
      Alia & Radwa

  5. I also can’t find what to do with the rest of the pasta – since half of the penne is added at first? Where the other half goes? I’ll assume on top of the ground beef.

    1. Thanks for catching. You are correct. We have adjusted the recipe! Let us know how it turns out! xo, Alia & Radwa

  6. This recipe looks great and I love all the tips at the beginning. I use recipes on line because I’m not a very good at intuitive cooking, I like a recipe. Can you please tell me how much salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and cardamom I’m supposed to put in the ground beef?

      1. I’m not sure if I’m just not seeing it…the finished recipe at the bottom of the page looks like this…
        2 tsp kosher salt (more or less to taste)
        1/2 tsp cinnamon
        1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
        1 lb cooked ground beef (seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, cardamom, and a dash of cinnamon) I see no amounts for the cardamom or fresh garlic. Am I missing something or is it not there?

  7. 5 stars
    Wonderful! If I wanted to make a vegetarian version (without the beef) how would you recommend adjusting the spices? Thanks!