Pesto Mac and Cheese

A swirl of basil pesto brings so much flavor to this classic comfort food! This pesto mac and cheese features Havarti cheese for ultra creaminess.

Pesto mac and cheese

Oh hey there, creamy pesto mac and cheese! This seriously cozy comfort food is just as gooey as it looks, and adding a swirl of bright green basil pesto is a total genius move. That genius is not from us: it’s by way of Maria Lichty, our dear friend and author of the new Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook. We could not be more proud to see her book in print, as we’ve been chatting with her through the entire cookbook writing process. (Which, we might add, is quite the trip! Here are some things we learned writing a cookbook.) Keep reading for the recipe and more about this fabulous book.

Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook

About the book: Two Peas and Their Pod

Last year, I crossed paths with Maria at a few events (a party in Detroit, a conference at Pinterest among others). Alex and I had known her ultra popular blog Two Peas and Their Pod for years. So it was such fun to meet the person behind the drool-worthy cookie recipes and family-friendly meals. Of course, Maria is the most kind and generous soul, and just as lovely as her writing voice seems! When we met up, Maria was in the midst of writing this book: which is an intense process, to say the least.

So it was with great anticipation that Alex and I received the Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook: and it’s even more beautiful and drool-worthy than we imagined! The subtitle is “Everyday recipes from our family kitchen” and that’s exactly what I think of when I think of Maria and her sweet family. It’s full of fresh, beautiful photography and recipes that we can assure you will be family favorites in no time! Exactly like this pesto mac and cheese…

Pesto mac and cheese

Making pesto mac and cheese

This pesto mac and cheese was a huge hit in this house: our son Larson literally could not stop eating it. “Mac and cheese!” he would yell and try to get it out of the refrigerator himself, which at age 2 is quite the feat. Suffice it to say, this one is a serious winner in our family: and I’m not sure where it wouldn’t be. The way that the Havarti cheese melts into the creamiest sauce makes it our new favorite. (I thought Gouda mac and cheese was my ultimate…before that Spaghetti squash mac and cheese.)

The ingredients to make this pesto mac and cheese are very simple: here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni or other short pasta: we used gigli pasta (more on that below)
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Milk
  • Shredded Havarti or mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
  • Basil Pesto 

The only part that requires some technique is making a roux. What’s a roux? A “roux” is flour and butter cooked together and used to thicken sauces. It’s usually made from equal parts of flour and butter. You’ll cook the butter and flour together until they start to turn light brown, then add milk and cheese to the sauce. This is pretty standard for most mac and cheese recipes: it’s what makes the creamy sauce!

Pesto mac and cheese

What is gigli pasta?

We used gigli pasta for this pesto mac and cheese because we love using unique pasta shapes. What is it? Gigli is a short pasta shape with a fluted edge that is rolled into a cone shaped flour. It’s also known as campanelle and is best when served with thick sauces. Which, makes it perfect for mac and cheese! A few other of our pasta dinner ideas that work with gigli pasta:

It’s worth finding a fun pasta shape like gigli for this pesto mac and cheese: just for the novelty! But any short pasta shape will work, including:

  • Macaroni (obviously!)
  • Shells
  • Farfalle
  • Fusilli
  • Penne
  • Rigatoni
Basil pesto

Making homemade pesto

If it’s the season for basil and you’ve got a plant, making homemade pesto makes this mac and cheese even more terrific. Of course if it’s not, you can use purchased pesto: here’s one of our favorite brands.

If you decide to make your own, we have lots of great pesto recipes. Our Best Basil Pesto is the classic, made with pinenuts, basil and Parmesan, But you can use lots of types of nuts in pesto: try our Cashew Pesto with Basil or Walnut Pesto with Basil. By the way, we also have a few vegan pesto recipes: Vegan Cashew Pesto and Easy Vegan Pesto. But we assume if you’re making mac and cheese, you’re not eating vegan at the moment!

Pesto mac and cheese

This pesto mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

Print
Pesto mac and cheese

Pesto Mac and Cheese


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 4.75 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6

Description

A swirl of basil pesto brings so much flavor to this classic comfort food! This pesto mac and cheese features Havarti cheese for ultra creaminess.


Ingredients

  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  12 ounces elbow macaroni or other short pasta shape (we used gigli pasta)
  •  4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  2 cups 2% milk at room temperature
  •  2 cups shredded Havarti or mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
  •  3 tablespoons Basil Pesto or store bought basil pesto

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the shredded cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the pesto.
  3. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Notes

Reprinted with permission from Two Peas and Their Pod Cookbook by Maria Lichty

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Pesto Mac and Cheese, Mac and Cheese, Kid Friendly, Comfort Food Recipes, Havarti Mac and Cheese

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry Covington
    September 9, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    This looks great! I have used Havarti for grilled cheese sandwiches, never thought to put it in mac and cheese, but it’s one of those perfect melting cheeses. I think its unusual and mild flavor would also be the perfect pair with the pesto. Thanks for sharing this great new recipe from Maria’s new cookbook!

  • Reply
    Kathleen Henry
    September 9, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Pesto and Mac and Cheese together?? This is brilliant!

  • Reply
    Maria
    September 9, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks SO much for sharing! I am thrilled you loved the mac and cheese! I wish we could get our boys together for a mac and cheese play date:) I appreciate your support! xo

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