Not long ago one Meatless Monday, our cupboard was pretty bare. I had all the ingredients for macaroni and cheese, but I wanted a healthier option with a few less calories and a bit more flavour. Luckily I had some broccoli in the crisper and some leftover pesto.
Broccoli not only adds nutrition to the dish, it helps decrease the amount of pasta and sauce you are eating so lowers fat and calorie counts. Using a strong cheese means you can use less of it, and the pesto adds flavour too. This is a great way to use up homemade or store bought pesto.
I wasn’t actually planning on writing about this dish as it was something I just threw together, but it was so delicious I had to share. The reason there are only tomatoes on half the dish is because my husband dislikes them, but the dish will look prettier (and in my opinion, taste better) if you put them all over the top of the casserole. However, if you feel like my husband does, the tomatoes are purely optional. Either way, this is one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes I have ever made.
Broccoli Pesto Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 medium head of broccoli cut in small florets
- 8 ounces macaroni
- 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 ounce butter
- 2 generous tablespoons all-purpose plain flour
- 1½ to 2 cups milk you may not need it all
- 3 generous tablespoons pesto
- 4 ounces vegetarian cheddar cheese strong cheddar if possible, divided
- 2 medium tomatoes sliced (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C or 180°C for a fan oven).
- Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions.
- Add the broccoli to the pasta for the last three minutes of cooking time.
- Drain the broccoli and pasta, return to the saucepan and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Sauté the onion until it begins to soften.
- Sprinkle with the flour and stir through.
- Cook for a moment or two.
- Gradually add the milk, a bit at at time, stirring and allowing to thicken after each addition.
- When the sauce looks creamy and fairly thick but still pourable, add the pesto and 3 ounces of the cheese.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts.
- If the sauce is too thick, gradually add a bit more milk until the desired consistency is reached.
- Pour the sauce over the macaroni and broccoli and gently stir to coat.
- Transfer the broccoli macaroni and cheese to a casserole dish.
- Cover with sliced tomatoes, if using.
- Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining ounce of cheese.
- Bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes or until the cheese turns a light golden brown.