This Broccoli Soup with Mac and Cheese Topping Is the Ultimate Healthy Comfort Food

updated Jan 18, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheesy Macaroni
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creamy broccoli soup sits in a white bowl with noodles peeking through the surface
Credit: Lauren Kodiak

There is a special kind of magic that happens when you find a dish that’s not only deeply comforting but also leaves you feeling nourished. This type of “healthy comfort” food can mean different things to different people, but for me it often happens at the intersection of creamy (and/or cheesy) and vegetables. A prime example? This broccoli soup from Hetty McKinnon’s cookbook Family.

The recipe is broccoli soup topped with what is, essentially, mac and cheese. (Let that sink in for a second.) The soup is bright from broccoli, fennel seed, and fresh basil and the cheesy macaroni is cozy and familiar. And this combo is exactly what I want to eat in the first few months of the new year.

Credit: Lauren Kodiak

Why This Broccoli Soup Is So Special

When tucking into a bowl of this soup, the first thing that hits you is the texture: It’s luxe and full-bodied, but not heavy. It’s also expertly balanced; a small, simple list of ingredients yields a broccoli- and fennel seed-forward broth that’s super tasty on its own. But, as the recipe title implies, this soup is not meant to be eaten on its own — it’s topped with the creamiest, dreamiest cheesy macaroni. A perfect spoonful captures the salty al dente noodles with the earthy broccoli soup. It really does feel like a complete meal in one bowl — and it’s just divine.

Silken Tofu Is the Secret to a Creamy, Protein-Packed Soup

As a vegetarian, I always seek out recipes that are high in protein — and when it comes to soups, that usually means finding ones that are packed with beans or lentils. But if you blend in some silken tofu — as this recipe does — you get that satiating hit of protein, along with a light, creamy texture (without any dairy!). I’ve since employed this trick with much success in carrot soup, cauliflower soup, tomato soup — anywhere I’m looking to add a little oomph and richness.

The Easiest Homemade Mac and Cheese

Aside from the fact that it’s a brilliant idea to top soup with cheesy macaroni (who needs croutons?), the first time I made this recipe I was also truly surprised by how easy Hetty’s method is. The simple combination of pasta water, mascarpone, and grated cheddar creates a rich, creamy sauce that coats the macaroni perfectly; I always have a very hard time not eating it all right out of the pot.

Now when I’m craving mac and cheese, I skip the boxed stuff or overly complicated homemade recipes and just make this. And, if you’re curious about whether it works with different types of pasta, I am happy to report that it does. I’ve made this recipe with brown rice and lentil elbows, and both work beautifully.

Credit: Lauren Kodiak

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheesy Macaroni

Serves 4

Nutritional Info



  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1

    yellow onion, diced

  • 2

    garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon

    fennel seeds

  • 2

    small broccoli heads (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut into florets and stems trimmed and roughly chopped

  • 5 cups

    vegetable stock

  • 12 ounces

    silken tofu, crumbled

  • Handful of basil leaves, sliced

  • Sea salt and black pepper

Cheesy Macaroni:

  • 5 ounces

    dried macaroni

  • 2 ounces

    mascarpone cheese

  • 1/2 cup

    grated cheddar cheese

  • Sea salt and black pepper


  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a Dutch oven or saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and fennel seeds and cook for 3–4 minutes, until softened. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cook for 5 minutes, to char the broccoli slightly. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 5–7 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Stir in the tofu and season with sea salt and black pepper.

  2. Meanwhile, for the cheesy macaroni, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until the pasta is soft. Drain, reserving about 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Return the drained pasta to the same pot together with a drizzle of oil and add the reserved cooking water, mascarpone, and cheddar. Stir to melt the cheese and season with sea salt and black pepper.

  3. Using a hand-held blender or food processor, blitz the broccoli soup until it is very smooth.

  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with spoonfuls of the cheesy macaroni. Scatter with the basil and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day by Hetty McKinnon, 2019. Published by Prestel.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.