Recipe: Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

updated Jan 29, 2020
summer
Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese
Tender shells and sharp cheddar keep it classically comforting, while a thick swirl of bright, vibrant pesto keeps it light with a sweet, herby punch.

Serves4

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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.

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

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Stovetop Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

Tender shells and sharp cheddar keep it classically comforting, while a thick swirl of bright, vibrant pesto keeps it light with a sweet, herby punch.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.