A creamy pesto mac and cheese recipe made with three flavorful cheeses – Fontina, Asiago and Parmesan – and topped with a swirl of vibrant kale pesto. Jump to recipe.
I’ve never been one to sneak vegetables into food. I want my girls to embrace foods of all kinds and eat them gladly. But wanting things and having those things are not the same. And understanding the ever-changing likes and dislikes of a seven and three year old isn’t a science – a dish one will eat in its entirety one week can easily go untouched the next. So it was a relief to see that both girls loved this pesto shells and cheese recipe.
In the colder months, I’m fond of replacing herbs with dark, leafy greens in my pesto; greens give pesto a mild flavor that plays nicely to the toasted pepitas and garlic. And pesto baked into a creamy shells and cheese recipe – one full of the goodness of great Fontina, Asiago, and Parmesan – is an excellent all-in-one winter dinner. The blend of cheeses lends a depth of flavor without being overwhelming, and the pesto mellows beautifully. All in all, this was a winter meal to remember, especially since both girls begged for seconds, and even thirds.
A creamy pesto mac and cheese recipe made with three flavorful cheeses – Fontina, Asiago and Parmesan – and topped with a swirl of vibrant kale pesto.
- 1/4 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
- 2 cups chopped kale leaves
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 lemon , zested
- 1 teaspoon salt , divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper , divided
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound medium shell pasta
- 2 cups 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup 2 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
- 3/4 cup 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
Scatter pumpkin seeds on small, rimmed baking sheet and slide into oven. Toast, shaking pan a few times, 4 minutes or until seeds are very lightly browned.
In bowl of food processor, pulse to combine toasted pumpkin seeds, kale, garlic, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until mixture is well combined.
Bring large pot of salted water to rolling boil. Cook shells just to al dente and strain.
In heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until milk is fully incorporated and mixture thickens before adding more. Once all milk has been added, turn off heat and fold in fontina, asiago, and 1/2 cup parmesan.
Pour cheese sauce over shells and stir to combine. Spoon into prepared baking pan. Dot shells with pesto, swirling pesto in with spoon. Top with remaining 1/4 cup shredded parmesan and a 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Bake 35 - 40 minutes, or until mac and cheese is bubbling vigorously and shell edges are light golden brown. Serve immediately.