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

Just made this for dinner and loved it. I substituted diced boiled potatoes for the pasta and used a parsley/cilantro combination for the basil because that's what I had. All the different tastes melded together well.

Cambur

I love the combination of the broccoli and basil. I make a soup like that. But, what a glorious casserole. So rustic, so beautiful and flavorful. Comfort food with green in it. Love it.

Made this for dinner tonight, it was awesome :)

Jill

Now I know what to do with the last of the garden basil and broccoli from the farmers' market! And just in time for National Pasta Month...

Even though casseroles take a lot of time, they're *always* worth the wait. I don't see how one with with basil, butternut squash and creme fraiche could ever go wrong....

Looks delicious! We do a lot of squash or pumpkin mac n' cheese for our kids for a healthier turn on a great classic. We sometimes add herbs to the casserole, but our greens are always on the side... I will have to try blending them into the mix too.

This looks amazing! I love the idea of blending tomato with basil. Such a clean looking recipe, may take work but you can tell it's worth it.

Mmmm...you know how sometimes a person doesn't know what they want until you show it to them? I didn't know I desperately wanted mac n cheese until I read this post. Now it's all I can think about...thanks Heidi!

Sounds great! Do you think that greek yogurt could be used instead of sour cream or creme fraiche? Or would that not cook as well? thanks

Jen

Yowza! Sort of a pesto mac-and-cheese. I think this might be a good candidate for a little maple bacon. Combined with the butternut (or perhaps sweet potatoes, instead), this could be a real winner. I will definitely give it a go!

Todd

The only thing that prevents me from indulging my love for mac and cheese is some of the guilt. I love the fact that this will take some away- and replace it with proper vegetables. Lovely stuff.

Can you use Magic Sauce on this one? Been making that every week since you gave us the recipe, my husband uses it on everything but his toothbrush. So far, eggs are his favorite vehicle. HS: Love that idea Catherine - great call.

Catherine

Love the transition from summer to fall flavors here - hoping the little ones will enjoy.

What a great recipe. I am always looking for healthier mac and cheese reipes with lots of veggies! Perfect. :)

i love how you added greens in the mac and cheese. i have to try this!

this looks divine! great healthy choice over regular mac and cheese. Lobster mac and cheese is the best though!

Ohh, sounds great! I have the same question about when/if the squash is added - I'm guessing just before baking the whole shebang? Also, a tip for those of us who are too lazy or pressed for time to peel and cube hard winter squash: you can pierce the squash several times, microwave it for 2-5 minutes (depending on size), and then halve it and roast it and reduce baking time a lot without sacrificing delicious roast-y flavor or nutrients. I find it easier to scoop/cut cooked flesh than to deal with the raw squash. Thanks for the great recipe, Heidi! Just made a version of your berry pie, by the way, with rhubarb and raspberries that was out of this world yum - the lime thyme is amazing in it! Great idea.

Erin

What a great idea! I could definitely see swapping out the broccoli and basil for whatever's seasonal and delicious at the market that day. A recipe for people who normally don't like mac and cheese and mac and cheese lovers who don't like veggies. Win-win!

I'd like to see a picture of the little "nest" of lists!

Billie Jean Potter

Basil and broccoli sound like a very interesting combination! I'll def be giving this one a try!

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