Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen

Pesto Mac n’ Cheese

 

 

 

Pesto Mac n’ Cheese made with garden fresh herb pesto mixed and a lightened up creamy Alfredo sauce and pasta; then topped with buttery Italian breadcrumbs and baked until hot and bubbly.

Pesto Mac n' Cheese made with garden fresh herb pesto mixed and a lightened up creamy Alfredo sauce and pasta; then topped with buttery Italian breadcrumbs and baked until hot and bubbly.

My kids are mac n’ cheese fanatics, like most kids I guess. Seriously, my youngest would eat it every day of the week if I let her. So I’m always experimenting to find new ways to make one of their favorite dinners a little different. Since starting my herb garden a few weeks ago, my basil has been growing out of control with all the rain we’ve had, so I decided to make my homemade pesto to create this new recipe for Pesto Mac n’ Cheese.

Pesto Mac n' Cheese

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 added my pesto to a basic lightened up Alfredo sauce using fat free half and half because 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 n' Cheese-Horizontal

To make this Pesto Mac n’ Cheese follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions leaving it on the al dente side; drain. I used Gemelli for this recipe, but any small, tubular pasta like macaroni or penne will do. You could also substitute gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs to make this a gluten free meal.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; then while the pasta is cooking prepare the pesto (if you haven’t already) and the sauce.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. butter over medium heat; then whisk in the flour to form a roux.
  4. Next, add the half and half and cheese; whisking occasionally until the sauce starts to thicken (approx. 5-7 minutes). Stir in the prepared pesto and mix well. Keep warm until the pasta is ready.
  5. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and add them to the breadcrumbs; mix well.
  6. Combine the cooked pasta and sauce; then place in an oven safe baking casserole dish (9×13). Top with breadcrumb mixture; then bake for 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.

Pesto Mac n' Cheese

My family LOVED this recipe. In fact, they have already asked me to make it again. It was so rich and creamy and the buttery, toasted breadcrumbs on top really added a nice texture to the dish. This Pesto Mac n’ Cheese would be a nice addition to your weekly meal rotation, serve it for Sunday Supper or as a side dish.  Having a graduation party? Retire the old, played out mac n’ cheese and give it a grown up twist with this recipe. It will be a definite crowd pleaser! ~Enjoy!

Pesto Mac n' Cheese made with garden fresh herb pesto mixed and a lightened up creamy Alfredo sauce and pasta; then topped with buttery Italian breadcrumbs and baked until hot and bubbly.

5 from 1 vote
Pesto Mac n' Cheese
Print
Pesto Mac n' Cheese
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 
Pesto Mac n' Cheese made with garden fresh herb pesto mixed and a lightened up creamy Alfredo sauce and pasta; then topped with buttery Italian breadcrumbs and baked until hot and bubbly.
Course: Casserole, Main Entree
Author: Carrie's Experimental Kitchen
Ingredients
  • 1 lb . Pasta (small tubular pasta like macaroni penne or gemelli)
  • 8 tbsp . Butter; divided
  • 1 tbsp . All Purpose Flour
  • 2 c . Fat Free Half and Half
  • 1/2 c . Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 c . Prepared Pesto
  • 1 c . Italian Breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions leaving on the al dente side; drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the pasta is cooking prepare pesto and the sauce.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. butter over medium heat; then whisk in the flour to form a roux.
  4. Next, add the half and half and cheese; whisking occasionally until the sauce starts to thicken (approx. 5-7 minutes). Stir in the prepared pesto and mix well. Keep warm until the pasta is ready.
  5. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and add them to the breadcrumbs; mix well.
  6. Combine the cooked pasta and sauce; then place in an oven safe baking casserole dish (9x13). Top with breadcrumb mixture; then bake for 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.

Here are some other pesto recipes you may like to try.

Pesto & Goat Cheese Crostini

Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini

(this is also where you can find the recipe for my homemade pesto)

Gluten Free Pasta with Mixed Herb Pesto

Gluten Free Pasta with Mixed Herb Pesto

Basil Pecan Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

Basil Pecan Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

Penne with Avocado Pesto

Penne with Avocado Pesto

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Sun Dried Tomato & Asiago Cheese Pesto

Lemon Thyme Pesto

Lemon Thyme Pesto

Ravioli with Spinach Pesto-closeup

Ravioli with Spinach Pesto


4 Comments

  1. Beverley
    June 2, 2015 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    such a great recipe and we are a pasta loving family. I love how it’s a quick and easy recipe…my favorite part is the crispy bits on top. Great newsletter with lots of good tips and wish you a happy June xoxo

    • carrieexpktchn@optonline.net
      June 3, 2015 at 6:09 am - Reply

      It really was super easy and I’m so glad you enjoyed the newsletter. Thanks so much for stopping by and Happy June to you to my friend! xoxo

  2. Maureen
    June 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful recipe! It looks so great! I love pasta so this actually got my attention. And I love the crispy bits on top even more! I like your homemade pesto too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Carrie's Experimental Kitchen
      June 23, 2015 at 9:06 am - Reply

      Thank you so much Maureen. In fact I can’t wait for my basil to grow some more so I can make it again. The family really loved this one!

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