Pesto Mac and Cheese


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Trade your potato recipe for this Pesto Mac and Cheese. Put any leftover pesto in the freeze in ice cube trays.

Recipe Courtesy of Chef David Venable

Ingredients

For the pesto

  • 3 Cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/2 Cup spinach
  • 1/4 Cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 Cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

For the Mac and Cheese

  • 1 Pound short pasta, such as penne, cooked
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Cups milk
  • 3 Cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 Cups Asiago cheese, grated
  • 3 Teaspoons salt
  • 1 Teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Chicken Pesto Mac & Cheese

Published: Sep 7, 2014 · by Elizabeth Waterson · Modified: May 18, 2020 · This post may contain affiliate links, which may pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Confessions of a Baking Queen!

Homemade Mac & Cheese is taken to the next level with a dollop of homemade basil pesto. Cheddar, Basil Pesto, and Greek Yogurt make this Chicken Pesto Mac & Cheese absolutely delicious! And ready in less than 30 minutes!

Pasta is a love of mine. Who the heck doesn't love pasta?! A crazy person that's who. Sorry if you are that person, I just don't understand how you cannot be in love with pasta. A garlic olive oil sauce, a beautiful juicy tomato sauce or a rich cheesy cream sauce. how on earth can you go wrong? I'll take all of the above!

My favorite Italian restaurant around where I live is Roman Cucina. On Tuesday nights there special is a creamy pesto and I freaking LOVE IT! It is that good. They also have a delicious tiramisu, oh and they have seasonal cheesecakes- lemon, Oreo, cookie dough, pumpkin..oh how I love all of them!

Well, last week I made some homemade basil pesto, so easy and delicious, and for dinner, I had to make a creamy pesto sauce. The problem was I was craving mac and cheese so I kind of combined the two. Awesome choice, if I do say so myself. I also made a cheesy cream sauce with no heavy cream! I used 2% milk and greek yogurt! I was quite proud of myself because the Chicken Pesto Mac & Cheese still tasted rich. ( I am on a #fitlife kick right now, let's see how long that lasts! LOL)

This is the Basil Pesto Recipe I used in the pasta. You could also try my Easy Walnut Pesto Recipe.

★★★★★ Please let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a star rating and comment below!

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Spring Pesto Mac & Cheese

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, less one minute. Drain and set aside.

In a dutch oven, skillet, or oven-proof pan, heat butter over medium-high heat.

When the butter is melted, add flour and spices. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until bubbly and golden.

Pour in cream. Cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently to avoid clumps, until thickened slightly. Stir in Dijon mustard and season with salt and pepper.

Add cheddar and parmesan and whisk until smooth. Sauce should be creamy and thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

To the pot with the cheese sauce, fold in cooked pasta and spinach. Stir until pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce. Gently swirl in pesto (don’t over-mix).

In a medium bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs, parmesan, basil and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter topping in an even layer over the Mac & Cheese.

Transfer Mac & Cheese to the middle oven rack. Bake for 15-20 min, until the topping is golden-brown and the cheese is bubbling. Serve with fresh basil sprinkled over top. Enjoy!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 2 1/2- or 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray (an 9″ x 13″ baking dish works perfectly for this bacon pesto mac and cheese bake). Set the baking dish aside.

Cook a 16-ounce package of elbow macaroni in boiling water, stirring occasionally until tender yet firm to the bite. Remove the pot from the heat. After draining, transfer the pasta back to the pot (still off the heat) and cover to keep warm while you do the next steps.

Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned and crisp. Time-saving tip: Start cooking the bacon while your pasta is cooking. Transfer the bacon slices to a paper towel-lined plate to cool and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease (you’ll see why in a minute).

After the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon and set it aside.

Place the reserved bacon grease, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 cloves of minced garlic in a saucepan over medium-high heat. That’s right… you’re using that bacon grease as part of the base to your cheese sauce for this bacon pesto mac and cheese! Stir until the butter is melted (about 1 minute, which is just enough time for the garlic to become fragrant and gently cooked).

Whisk flour into the butter mixture and continue whisking until the flour starts to turn golden brown (about 1 minute more).

Slowly add milk, heavy cream, salt, and pepper to the saucepan, whisking until there are no lumps. Bring to a boil while stirring frequently, then reduce the heat to medium.

Stir grated white Cheddar cheese into the cream mixture, stirring until the cheese is melted.

Add pesto and half of the crumbled bacon to the pot and stir to combine everything.

Turn off the burner and transfer the cheese mixture to the pot with the cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Mix 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl to make a crumb topping.

Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the pesto bacon macaroni and cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until bubbly and just starting to brown (about 20 minutes). Remove the bacon pesto mac and cheese from the oven and top with the remaining half of crumbled bacon.

Preheat a broiler and place the baking dish under the broiler until browned (1 to 3 minutes depending on the heat of your broiler). Garnish the bacon pesto mac and cheese with chopped basil.

This bacon pesto mac and cheese is a family favorite, and I hope it will become one of yours, too! Here’s the full Bacon Pesto Mac and Cheese Bake recipe. Don’t forget to pin this one!


One Pot Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

This Pesto Mac and Cheese recipe was created as part of a shop that has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are my own.

Today I’m bringing you a flavorful, fast and easy one-pot meal. You can always use one of those, right? As the lazy days of summer are winding down and we’re settling back into regimented routines I’m relying on simple weeknight meals. I firmly believe in the importance of regular family dinners. Even in the midst of our busy schedules I try to gather my family around the table as often as possible.

One of my family’s favorite meals is homemade macaroni and cheese. I was excited to try the new Barilla Pronto Pasta. It creates one-pan pasta meals with no need to wait for water to boil, and no draining required. Yes, you read that correctly! You just add the water and pasta right to the pan and in about 10 minutes the pasta is done! It even maintains its shape and texture. It’s amazing!

I bumped up the flavor in this mac and cheese by adding Barilla Basil Pesto and a parmesan tomato topping. The pesto adds a balanced and delicious Italian herb flavor that compliments the mac and cheese perfectly. The parmesan crusted tomatoes add a pop of color and fresh flavor. If you have picky eaters in your family, you can easily skip the tomato topping and just serve them the creamy mac and cheese that’s underneath. For those that like tomatoes, I highly suggest taking the extra couple minutes to add them. They round out the dish wonderfully.

For this recipe I used rotini shaped pasta, but Barilla Pronto also comes in penne and half-cut spaghetti.

So there you have it – homemade mac and cheese made in one pan in under 30 minutes. Let’s dig in!

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Pesto Penne and Cheese

I grew up eating mac and cheese from a box. I had read about someone making it from scratch in a children’s novel, but it wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that I ever had homemade. Oh my word.

This was NOT the same thing that I had grown up eating. It was so much richer and cheesier. I was smitten immediately.

I was baby-sitting for the Giordano family Mrs. Giordano had left a casserole of this mac and cheese that was amazing. I got the recipe from her before I left and an adaptation of that became my Easiest Mac and Cheese. I could make that in my sleep, it’s so easy.

Since then I’ve busted out and experimented with a more traditional Stovetop Mac and Cheese. I’ve tweaked that one into an Alfredo Mac and Cheese.

But I think this one may be my current favorite.

Loosely based on my Easiest Mac and Cheese, this pasta and cheese casserole takes the old classic to new heights. Rich pesto and intense sun-dried tomatoes take the humble mac-and- cheese casserole and make it something a little more.

If I don’t make my own pesto, I typically buy it in bulk at Costco. It’s got great flavor and it’s a super good price, about $4 for a big jar. Freeze it in smaller portions if you don’t think you’ll use it all. Or do some batch cooking to use it up quickly. This Pesto Penne and Cheese is an awesome use for it.

This casserole, from my first cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, is freezer-friendly, so if you make it this week, why not make a double (or triple) batch. If you do that enough times in a week or month, you’ll quickly and easily fill your freezer.


Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

Looking for a way to shake up your go-to Macaroni and Cheese? You will be the envy of every potluck with this tasty green dish!

Prep Time

Cook Time

Difficulty

Ingredients

1 lb. Elbow macaroni, uncooked

3 1/2 Tbsp All-purpose flour, or enough to make a roux

2 cup Vermont cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Prepare the pasta according to the package’s directions, including a generous amount of salt in the water.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, whisking consistently continue adding flour until you have a thick roux. Add the milk, pouring slowly and whisking constantly. Add the spices and continue to whisk until the milk mixture just begins to boil. At this point, turn the heat to low and add in cheeses and pesto. Continue to mix occasionally until all the cheese has melted and the mixture has thickened. For a thicker sauce, add extra cheese.

Combine the macaroni and the sauce, then pour into a 9吉 pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes or until the top starts to brown. Serve and enjoy!


What is pesto?

Pesto is nothing more than fresh basil mixed with pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil though I’ve made pesto out of other herbs as well.

It takes just minutes to make and gives any recipe a fresh, bold flavor. I also skimp on the pine nuts when they’re too expensive and it tastes just as good.

I added my pesto to a basic lightened up Alfredo sauce using fat free half and half. I like to cut back on calories and added fat where I can due to my high cholesterol however, you can replace the half and half with heavy cream or use a mixture of 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 milk instead.


Pesto Mac and Cheese Recipe

My son would eat mac and cheese nearly every day if I would make it for him, but he’s lucky if I make it once a week. I try to get creative with mix-ins so that we enjoy it to. Some of the quickest versions just require me to throw in some diced broccoli, spinach or tomatoes. My favorite versions of mac and cheese are baked with breadcrumbs and cheese on top. This recipe for Pesto Mac and Cheese is quick and simple. I use Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese as base, and mixed in basil pesto before baking it with a mixture of cheeses and breadcrumbs. It’s a grown-up version of mac and cheese that my son enjoys too.

I previously mentioned that my son loves mac and cheese, so it’s much easier to buy it in bulk. Our local Sam’s Club carries Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese 12 pack, which has three varieties including Shells and Real Aged Cheddar, Shells and White Cheddar, and Macaroni and Cheese. I love that pack because it gives us some variety, and I can be creative with mix-ins. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite between the Shells and Real Aged Cheddar and Shells and White Cheddar.

  • 1 box of Annie’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar prepared according to package directions
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
  • ½ cup of crush breadcrumbs or panko
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ⅛ cup grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup grated white cheddar
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prepare the Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese according to package directions
  3. Lightly grease a small baking dish
  4. Mix in the pesto to mac and cheese
  5. Pour mixture into the baking dish
  6. In a small mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs, butter, parmesan and cheddar.
  7. Pour across the top of the mac and cheese
  8. Bake for 15 mins or until lightly brown on top

This Pesto Mac and Cheese Recipe is just one of the many ways that you can make Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese a little fancier.

My son would argue that the best way to eat Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese is prepared plain according to the package directions, but since we purchase it in bulk there’s no need to fight. Sam’s Club has a wide variety of natural and organic products available for purchase. Here are a few of our favorites the Cascadian Farm Chewy Bars are great on the go.

Do you ever add mix-ins to boxed mac and cheese? I hope you’ll give this Pesto Mac and Cheese recipe a try and look for Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese at Sam’s Club.


Recipe Summary

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen medium shrimp in shells
  • 8 ounces dried elbow macaroni (2 cups)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded fontina cheese (5 oz.)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and devein shrimp, removing tails. Rinse shrimp pat dry with paper towels. Chop shrimp and set aside.

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

In large bowl stir together eggs, butter, half-and-half, 1 cup of the fontina cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, chopped basil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in shrimp and macaroni. Transfer to buttered 2-quart casserole. Top with remaining cheeses.

Bake, uncovered, 40 to 45 minutes or until heated through and shrimp pieces are opaque. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Top with fresh basil leaves. Makes 6 servings.