Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese Recipe

While in London my friend Anna Jones gave me a copy of the terrific new book she worked on - this broccoli-basil crusted mac and cheese immediately caught my attention.

Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese

Whenever I'm away from home I keep a list of what I want to cook when I get back. Well, it actually becomes more of a nest than a list, and there's a pocket in my suitcase dedicated to keeping it somewhat contained. Unzip the pocket and you'll find menus folded in two, notes scribble on the backs of receipts, pages ripped from far-flung magazines, that sort of thing. Now that I'm home, the nest is sitting a few inches tall, smack in the middle of the dining room table. Top of the pile, a note to self to make this broccoli-basil crusted mac and cheese.

Green Mac and Cheese Recipe

It's from a new book my girl Anna Jones wrote in conjunction with innocent recently. She gave me a copy in London, and it's filled with sass, and laughs, and brilliant, nutritious, family-friendly recipes. You can have a peek here, note it hasn't been published (yet) in the U.S. Those of you who read Jamie Magazine likely know Anna's work - she writes, she styles, she develops recipes in London. She's fantastic, and it's a shame she doesn't live closer.

The recipe! Like most casseroles, it's a bit of a project. But, the sort that pays off. You end up with a huge pan of mac and cheese, unlike any I've ever tasted. Plenty for leftovers. And there are a couple of notable things that make this version unique. First off, Anna has you puree basil with a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a dollop of creme fraiche. You combine this mixture with grated cheeses to create the melty magic that envelops the macaroni. And then there's the crunchy top crust, it's made from whole wheat bread, broccoli, and more basil blitzed in a processor with a touch of olive oil. It's brilliant.

Give this a go - in the meantime, I'm working on a London round-up with more pictures. And a new favorites list, and (!) I have a stack of new cookbooks brimming with recipes flagged to try.

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Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese

I'd consider make this with delicate squash (skin on) next time, to cut the prep-time on the squash. Play around with the cheese blend if it's more convenient for you -Anna's recipe calls for Cheddar and Manchego, but I always have gruyere on hand, so I swapped that in.

1 small butternut, acorn, or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into tiny chunks

olive oil
1 bunch of basil, stems removed
2 slices good brown bread, stale or dried out in the oven
1/2 a small head of broccoli (100 g / 3.5 oz), roughly chopped
4 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
~ 1 3/4 cups / 3.5 oz / 100 g grated white cheddar cheese
~ 1 3/4 cups / 3.5 oz / 100 g grated gruyere cheese
a large handful of (yellow) cherry tomatoes
3 cups / 300 g dried (whole wheat) macaroni elbows

Preheat your oven to 400F / 200C with a rack in the middle. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Place the squash on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

In the meantime, pulse half the basil, all of the bread, the broccoli and a lug of olive oil in a food processor until you've got a fine crumb. It'll be a bit damp - that's o.k. Transfer to a small bowl and give the processor a rinse.

In a separate bowl, combine the creme fraiche and grated cheeses.

Place the cherry tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining basil. Pulse a couple times to break things up, then add to the creme fraiche mixture and stir well.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water for a bit less time than the package suggests - you want it ever so slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving a big cup of the hot pasta water for later use. Return the hot pasta to the pan and add the cheese mixture to it. Add the squash and give it a good stir. Add pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency of cream. It can be a bit runny as the pasta will soak it up in the oven.

Transfer everything to a large baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs evenly across the top and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until the topping is crunchy. Remove from the oven, and wait 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 - 10.

Adapted from Hungry? The innocent recipe book for filling your family with good stuff by Anna Jones, Vanessa Hattersley, and innocent

Prep time: 35 minutes - Cook time: 25 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

I have plenty of frozen pesto for this and I love the idea of incorporating some broccoli to turn this into a healthier version for my kids. I'm making this this week. Good idea...I'm into green this week on my blog too: Vinegar braised greens with bacon and fried egg...Go Green!

I just got back from NYC and tried a restaurant there that was all Mac n Cheese (different kinds). They should have had a healthy one like this! I can't wait to try it.

I am getting a Boston Organics box today and I am betting this mac and cheese will be on my dinner table this week. Best part is that my husband will never know how healthy it is! Heidi, you are amazing with your recipes. Thank you!

Mikael

I just competed in a mac & cheese cookoff a couple weeks ago. I used a tomato basil penne pasta with sauteed shiitake mushrooms and cheddar and gouda cheeses. I also did a bechamel sauce. It was very tasty although too dry. This one sounds scrumptious! Gonna give it a try.

av

as there are only two of us at home i would like to know if the leftovers could be frozen for another day's meal

pottergal

I am not a huge mac and cheese fan unless it is studded with veggies like this one. Looks like an excellent meal.

Looks AMAZING! As soon as I'm back on cheese and wheat again, I'm making this. Plus, it's a great use for all the squash and broccoli I've been getting in my CSA. This might be a stupid question, but does the squash go in as well? The picture has it on the side and the recipe didn't specify.

ChicagoCook

on another note_ still marveling at your extreme packing. would love to know how you handled the camera equipment...

anne muller

What a unique version of macaroni casserole! I like the healthy additions like whole wheat and broccoli, so it's not just a boatload of empty calories. Can't wait to read more about London!

Hmmm never thought to pair basil with mac & cheese. Sounds delicious! Growing up in an Italian household, I find that basil is a comfort ingredient for me, so adding it to one of the most comforting dishes of all times seems like a great idea :)

Wow ... I've never seen anything like this. Broccoli AND mac and cheese ... amazing. Cannot wait to try.

I love when you share recipes from cookbooks I've never heard of. This looks like a gem! Happy Tuesday :)

Oh my. This is like all of my favorite flavors, rolled into one.

To me this looks great, I may just have to come up with my own gluten-free dairy free version.

Mary

I am a basil fiend, and this looks amazing. I hadn't considered basil in mac + cheese. It's usually such a comfort food, aka terrible for you. But the vibrant green really make sit feel wholesome, and not so guilt-inducing.

I am a basil fiend, and this looks amazing. I hadn't considered basil in mac + cheese. It's usually such a comfort food, aka terrible for you. But the vibrant green really make sit feel wholesome, and not so guilt-inducing.

Yes! Mac n Cheese may be what I miss the most from deciding to respect my cow's milk allergy earlier this year. This looks like something I can easily use with sheep and goat milk cheeses. I can't wait to try it!

Marjy

Oh my dear goodness. YES. This is the kind of meal that makes decisions FOR me.

Squash and broccoli together...that sounds so good! And it looks pretty too!

i was just debating the other day what makes a good mac and cheese and i'd say you found it...this one is FULL of flavor!

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