White Cheddar Pesto Mac & Cheese
Why I Love This Recipe
My roommate bought me a really cute mini cast iron skillet in Santa Barbara last weekend, and of course my immediate thought was “this will make SUCH a good dish for food photos!” I began thinking of a recipe to make in it, and the first thing that came to mind was baked mac and cheese.
There are about as many mac and cheese recipes out there as there are days in a year, so I tried to think of a creative twist to add to mine. I began sorting through my mental catalog of dishes I’ve made in the past, or wanted to make, that were worthy of sharing, and remembered that I’ve always wanted to try a pesto mac and cheese. It’s definitely been done before, but it still feels like a bold spin on a traditional dish. I also wanted to use a cheese that’s less commonly combined with pesto, meaning something besides mozzarella, goat cheese or brie, hence the white cheddar. The result?
It’s an indulgence, that’s for sure. I tried to lighten it up a little bit without sacrificing flavor, so I used olive oil instead of butter, 2% milk, and broccoli in lieu of more pasta. It’s still plenty rich, so it only takes a small portion for it to be satisfying. There are also only seven ingredients, and only one pot is needed! Feel free to make your own pesto if you have the time, of course, otherwise just use your favorite store-bought brand.
Enjoy as a main dish or a side dish alongside poultry or fish, and some white wine wouldn’t hurt :)
Ingredients You'll Need
5 ounces macaroni or cavatappi pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 2% milk
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons pesto
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.
In the same pan you cooked the pasta in, with the heat on medium-high, add the olive oil and flour and whisk together. Cook until bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.
Whisk in the milk and pepper to create a béchamel sauce. Cook the sauce until it’s simmering and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.
Add the white cheddar cheese and pesto, and stir until smooth and creamy. Add the broccoli and drained pasta and stir until fully coated with the cheese sauce. Turn off the heat.
Pour the mixture into a small cast iron skillet, small Dutch oven, or 8×8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the parmesan on top and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the parmesan is slightly browned.