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 macaroni and 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.
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 ½ heavy cream and ½ milk instead.
How do you make Pesto Mac n' Cheese?
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.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; then while the pasta is cooking prepare the pesto (if you haven't already) and the sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. butter over medium heat; then whisk in the flour to form a roux.
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. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and add them to the breadcrumbs; mix well.
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.
My family LOVED this Pesto Mac n' Cheese! 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 recipe 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!
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Pesto Mac n' Cheese
- 1 pound pasta (small tubular pasta like macaroni, penne or gemelli)
- 8 tablespoons butter; divided
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 cups half and half
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup prepared pesto
- 1 cup italian flavored breadcrumbs
- Prepare pasta according to package directions leaving on the al dente side; drain.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the pasta is cooking prepare pesto and the sauce.
- In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tbsp. butter over medium heat; then whisk in the flour to form a roux.
- 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.
- Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and add them to the breadcrumbs; mix well.
- 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.
Visit the recipe index to search for more recipes by category.
Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini
Gluten Free Pasta with Mixed Herb Pesto
Sun Dried Tomato & Asiago Cheese Pesto
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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
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
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 says
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!