A few big spoonfuls of bright, herby pesto make mac and cheese a weeknight dinner suitable for summer. The creamy, nutty flavors of sharp cheddar play nicely with the herby pesto, which brings a vibrant contrast to the cheese's richness. Store-bought pesto is always a back-pocket shortcut for us, but during the summer fresh become our first choice. So when considering this for dinner, include homemade pesto in the plans too.
Stovetop Pesto Mac & Cheese: Watch the Video
Light and Fresh Mac and Cheese for Summer, Thanks to Homemade Pesto
Summer is kind to the price of fresh herbs since a good rain and few steady days of sunshine can send a mint or basil plant into overdrive. You'll find them piled up in abundance at farmers markets for a price that won't kill your weekly food budget. If you're growing them yourself, a new way to use them up is always welcome. Basil is the classic choice for pesto, although all herbs and greens are fair game. Use whatever you have handy or pick up what looks good when you're at the market.
Start with homemade pesto: How To Make Perfect Pesto Every Time
Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese
10 ounces dried pasta shells or jumbo elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup pesto sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring a Dutch oven or large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in the same pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until completely combined; the mixture will look like wet sand. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to dry out, about 2 minutes.
Gradually whisk in a little bit of the milk until smooth, then whisk in the remaining milk and continue whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir the cheese in one handful at a time until melted and smooth. Stir in the pesto, salt, and pepper. Add the reserved pasta and stir gently until the pasta and sauce are evenly combined.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.