Saturday, June 9, 2012

Arugula Pesto and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Variations on basil pesto can be surprisingly jarring. People often expect a classic fresh basil pesto. But it's ok to mix things up every now and then! For an interesting twist on classic pesto and a twist on classic mac and cheese, try this casserole.

Arugula Pesto and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
(the original blog has far better pictures, FYI)

4 c pasta, uncooked
2 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
2 c milk
1/4 c heavy cream
10 oz white cheddar cheese, grated
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/3 c arugula pesto
1/3 c panko

Arugula Pesto:
4 c arugula
1/3 c asiago cheese
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c olive oil

To make the pesto:
In a food processor, combine garlic, arugula and cheese. Pulse until combined. Stream in olive oil a tablespoon at a time until the pesto becomes smooth.

To make the casserole:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions. I always shave a few minutes off the cooking time since it will be going in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, add flour and whisk until smooth to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden and has a nutty aroma. Add milk and cream, bring to a boil while constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and add cheese, then cook for a few minutes while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, then taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Add pasta to a baking dish and pour cheese sauce over top. Stir to distribute sauce, then stir in pesto. Top with additional grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly.

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