Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese recipe is modern comfort food at its finest. The creamy havarti cheese and the fresh homemade spinach pesto add depth to the classic mac and cheese, making it a meal that's both familiar and surprising.

Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe
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Photos of Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe

The two ingredients of note in this recipe are Havarti cheese and spinach basil pesto. Havarti is a Danish cheese that's buttery and slightly tangy. It's widely available in supermarkets, but if you can't find it, mozzarella is a good substitute. The spinach basil pesto is homemade, a blend of fresh spinach, basil, and other ingredients which may not be readily available at home.

Ingredients for Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

Spinach leaves: Fresh spinach leaves are the base for our homemade pesto.

Basil leaves: Basil adds that classic pesto flavor.

Extra virgin olive oil: This helps blend the pesto ingredients and adds richness.

Parmesan cheese: Adds sharpness to the pesto.

Lemon juice: Brightens the flavors in the pesto.

Garlic: Brings a punch to the pesto.

Elbow macaroni: The classic choice for mac and cheese.

Butter: Makes the sauce creamy.

All-purpose flour: Helps thicken the sauce.

Milk: The base for our cheese sauce.

Havarti cheese: A buttery, creamy cheese that melts well.

Spinach basil pesto: Adds depth of flavor to the cheese sauce.

One reader, Brantley Jiang says:

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This pesto havarti mac and cheese recipe is a game-changer! The combination of creamy havarti and the fresh flavors of the spinach pesto create a truly indulgent dish. It's a delightful twist on classic mac and cheese that's sure to impress even the pickiest eaters. Highly recommend trying it out!

Brantley Jiang

Techniques Required for Making Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

How to prepare spinach pesto: Combine spinach leaves, basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Blend until smooth, adjusting the consistency with more olive oil if needed.

How to make the roux: Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour to create a paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth and thickened.

How to make the mac and cheese sauce: Stir in the shredded cheese into the roux and milk mixture, whisking until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the spinach basil pesto.

How to cook the pasta: Boil salted water and cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

How to combine the pasta and sauce: Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring to combine, and cook until the pasta is warmed through.

How to season the dish: Season the mac and cheese with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

How To Make Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

A delicious spin to the classic mac and cheese, this dish adds the flavors of spinach pesto to a thick sauce made smooth and creamy with Havarti cheese.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes

Serves:

Ingredients

For Spinach Pesto:

  • 4cupsspinach leaves,packed
  • 2cupsfresh basil leaves,packed
  • ½cupextra virgin olive oil,or more for a thinner pesto
  • ¼cupparmesan cheese,grated
  • 2tbsplemon juice,(1 large lemon), fresh
  • 2garlic cloves,peeled
  • ½tspkosher salt,plus more to taste
  • ¼tspfreshly ground black pepper,plus more to taste

For Mac and Cheese:

  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3cupswhole wheat elbow macaroni,(12 oz), or orecchiette
  • 4tbspunsalted butter
  • ¼cupall purpose flour
  • 2cupswhole milk,at room temperature
  • 2cupshavarti cheese,or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3tbspspinach basil pesto,or store bought pesto

Instructions

Pesto:

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and blend for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides down with a spatula and blend again until smooth.

  2. For a thinner pesto, add more olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.*

Pasta:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes just until al dente. Drain the pasta and set it aside.

  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to create a paste. Add the milk and whisk until smooth.

  3. Increase the heat to medium and continue whisking for about 2 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken.

  4. Stir in the shredded cheese and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Fold in the pesto.

  5. Add the pasta, stirring to combine, and cook just until the pasta is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*The pesto can be stored in the fridge in a covered container for up to 2 weeks, or pour into ice cube molds and freeze for up to 6 months.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 732.79kcal
  • Fat: 48.50g
  • Saturated Fat: 18.95g
  • Trans Fat: 0.83g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 20.07g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.40g
  • Carbohydrates: 50.72g
  • Fiber: 2.79g
  • Sugar: 5.95g
  • Protein: 24.24g
  • Cholesterol: 78.25mg
  • Sodium: 605.00mg
  • Calcium: 530.72mg
  • Potassium: 427.70mg
  • Iron: 2.29mg
  • Vitamin A: 345.87µg
  • Vitamin C: 9.34mg

Technique Tip for Perfecting Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

When making the pesto, it's important to add the olive oil slowly while the food processor is running. This helps to emulsify the oil and other ingredients, resulting in a smoother, creamier pesto. Also, when melting the cheese into the sauce, make sure to keep the heat low to prevent the cheese from burning or becoming grainy. Lastly, always taste your sauce before adding the pasta. This gives you a chance to adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

Prep ahead: Make the spinach pesto in advance and store it in the fridge or freezer for quick use in the recipe.

One-pot cooking: Cook the pasta and make the cheese sauce in the same pot to minimize clean-up time.

Use pre-shredded cheese: Save time by using pre-shredded havarti or mozzarella cheese for the mac and cheese.

Double batch: Consider making a double batch of the spinach pesto and freezing the extra for future use in other dishes.

Quick boil: Boil the pasta while preparing the pesto and cheese sauce to streamline the cooking process.

Prep station: Measure out and prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook for a more efficient cooking process.

Multi-task: While the pasta is cooking, start making the cheese sauce to save time in the kitchen.

Leftovers: Enjoy the mac and cheese as leftovers for a quick and delicious meal the next day.

Substitute Ingredients For Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • spinach leaves - Substitute with kale: Kale has a similar earthy flavor and sturdy texture, making it a suitable replacement for spinach in the pesto.

  • fresh basil leaves - Substitute with cilantro: Cilantro can provide a fresh and herbaceous flavor similar to basil, adding a unique twist to the pesto.

  • extra virgin olive oil - Substitute with avocado oil: Avocado oil has a mild flavor and a high smoke point, making it a good alternative for cooking and blending the pesto.

  • parmesan cheese - Substitute with pecorino Romano: Pecorino Romano offers a similar salty and tangy flavor, which can be used as a substitute for parmesan in the pesto.

  • fresh lemon juice - Substitute with white wine vinegar: White wine vinegar can provide the acidity and tanginess that fresh lemon juice offers, enhancing the flavor profile of the pesto.

  • garlic - Substitute with shallots: Shallots can provide a milder, slightly sweet flavor compared to garlic, adding a unique twist to the pesto.

  • kosher salt - Substitute with sea salt: Sea salt can be used as a substitute for kosher salt, providing a similar level of salinity to the dish.

  • whole wheat elbow macaroni - Substitute with gluten-free elbow macaroni: Gluten-free elbow macaroni can be used as a substitute for whole wheat macaroni, catering to individuals with gluten sensitivities.

  • unsalted butter - Substitute with ghee: Ghee offers a rich, nutty flavor similar to butter and can be used as a substitute in the mac and cheese recipe.

  • all-purpose flour - Substitute with gluten-free flour: Gluten-free flour can be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour, catering to individuals with gluten sensitivities.

  • whole milk - Substitute with unsweetened almond milk: Unsweetened almond milk can provide a creamy texture and mild flavor, serving as a dairy-free alternative in the mac and cheese recipe.

  • havarti or mozzarella cheese - Substitute with fontina cheese: Fontina cheese offers a creamy texture and mild, nutty flavor, making it a suitable substitute for havarti or mozzarella in the mac and cheese recipe.

Presenting Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese, focus on creating an elegant and visually appealing presentation. Use a wide, shallow bowl or a sleek plate to showcase the vibrant colors and textures of the dish.

  2. Garnish with fresh basil leaves: Add a touch of freshness and color to the dish by delicately placing a few fresh basil leaves on top of the mac and cheese. This not only enhances the visual appeal but also adds a hint of aromatic flavor to the overall presentation.

  3. Incorporate a drizzle of olive oil: Before serving, drizzle a small amount of high-quality olive oil over the mac and cheese. The glistening sheen of the oil adds a luxurious touch and complements the flavors of the dish.

  4. Use a unique serving vessel: Consider serving the Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese in individual ramekins or mini cast-iron skillets for a personalized and upscale presentation. This adds a touch of sophistication to the dining experience.

  5. Accent with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese: Just before serving, lightly sprinkle a small amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the mac and cheese. This not only enhances the flavor but also adds a final touch of elegance to the presentation.

  6. Create a clean and minimalist presentation: Embrace simplicity by arranging the mac and cheese in a clean, minimalist style on the plate. Avoid overcrowding the dish and focus on highlighting the key elements for a refined presentation.

  7. Consider the use of edible flowers: For an exquisite and artistic touch, delicately place a few edible flowers, such as pansies or nasturtiums, on the plate. This adds a pop of color and a whimsical, gourmet flair to the presentation.

  8. Utilize contrasting textures: Incorporate a textural element, such as a crisp Parmesan tuile or a crunchy breadcrumb topping, to add depth and complexity to the presentation of the Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese. This creates a multi-dimensional dining experience.

  9. Emphasize the layers of flavors: Highlight the layers of flavors in the dish by arranging the mac and cheese in a way that showcases the vibrant green of the pesto, the creamy richness of the cheese, and the inviting appeal of the pasta. This visual representation enhances the anticipation of the dining experience.

  10. Consider the use of elegant dinnerware: Select sophisticated and elegant dinnerware that complements the colors and textures of the Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese. The right choice of dinnerware can elevate the overall presentation and create a memorable dining experience.

Essential Tools for Making Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

  • Food processor: A food processor is a versatile kitchen tool that can be used to blend, chop, puree, and mix ingredients. It's perfect for making the spinach pesto in this recipe.
  • Blender: A blender can be used to puree the spinach pesto ingredients if a food processor is not available.
  • Large pot: A large pot is essential for boiling the pasta. It should be large enough to comfortably hold the pasta and water.
  • Whisk: A whisk is necessary for making the cheese sauce, ensuring the flour is smoothly incorporated into the butter and milk.
  • Spatula: A spatula is useful for scraping down the sides of the food processor or blender when making the spinach pesto.
  • Colander: A colander is needed for draining the cooked pasta after boiling.
  • Large pot: A large pot is essential for making the cheese sauce and combining it with the cooked pasta.
  • Measuring cups and spoons: Accurate measurements are crucial for the pesto and cheese sauce, making these tools essential.
  • Grater: A grater is needed to shred the cheese for the mac and cheese sauce.
  • Cooking spoon: A cooking spoon is necessary for stirring the pasta and cheese sauce while cooking.
  • Ice cube molds: Ice cube molds are useful for freezing any leftover spinach pesto for future use.

Storing and Freezing Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

  • To store leftover pesto havarti mac and cheese, allow it to cool completely to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • When reheating, add a splash of milk or water to help loosen the sauce and prevent the pasta from drying out. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • To freeze, portion the cooled mac and cheese into freezer-safe containers or resealable bags. Remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Label and date the containers, and freeze for up to 2-3 months.
  • To reheat frozen mac and cheese, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Transfer the thawed mac and cheese to a microwave-safe dish or saucepan, add a splash of milk or water, and reheat until warmed through, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.
  • For best results, consume frozen mac and cheese within 2-3 months for optimal flavor and texture.
  • Note that the texture of the pasta may change slightly after freezing and thawing, becoming a bit softer than freshly made mac and cheese. However, the rich, creamy flavor of the pesto and havarti cheese will still be delicious.

How To Reheat Leftover Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

  • The best way to reheat leftover pesto havarti mac and cheese is to use the oven. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and transfer the mac and cheese into an oven-safe dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the top from drying out and browning too quickly. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the mac and cheese is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

  • Another option is to use the microwave. Place the leftover mac and cheese in a microwave-safe bowl and add a splash of milk to help keep it moist. Cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, leaving a small vent for steam to escape. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mac and cheese is heated through and the cheese is melted.

  • For a crispy top, you can also reheat the pesto havarti mac and cheese in a skillet on the stovetop. Melt a small amount of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leftover mac and cheese and spread it out evenly in the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom is crispy and golden brown. Stir the mac and cheese and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until it's heated through.

  • If you have an air fryer, you can use it to reheat your leftover mac and cheese. Preheat the air fryer to 350°F (175°C) and place the mac and cheese in the basket. Cook for 5-7 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through, until the mac and cheese is heated through and the top is slightly crispy.

  • Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to stir the pesto havarti mac and cheese well before serving to ensure that the pesto and cheese are evenly distributed throughout the dish. If the mac and cheese seems a bit dry after reheating, you can always add a splash of milk or a dollop of butter to help bring back its creamy texture.

Random Fact About Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

The spinach in the pesto provides a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium. These nutrients can help support overall health and well-being.

Is Making Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese at Home Economical?

The cost-effectiveness of this pesto havarti mac and cheese recipe largely depends on the availability and cost of ingredients. Spinach and basil are generally affordable, but havarti cheese and extra virgin olive oil can be pricier. However, the versatility of the pesto and the ability to freeze it for future use can add value. Rating: 8/10. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people would be around $15-$20, factoring in the cost of cheese and other ingredients.

Is Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Healthy or Unhealthy?

The pesto havarti mac and cheese recipe is a delicious and comforting dish, but it may not be the healthiest option due to several factors:

  • The recipe uses whole milk and a significant amount of cheese, which are high in saturated fat and calories.
  • Butter and olive oil are also used, adding to the overall fat content of the dish.
  • The pasta is made from whole wheat, which is a healthier option compared to regular pasta, but the portion size may still be quite large.

However, the recipe does include some healthy ingredients:

  • Spinach and basil are nutrient-dense greens that provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Garlic and lemon juice offer additional health benefits and flavor without adding many calories.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Reduce the amount of cheese used or opt for a lower-fat variety, such as part-skim mozzarella.
  • Use a combination of whole milk and low-fat milk to lower the overall fat content without compromising too much on texture and flavor.
  • Decrease the amount of butter used in the recipe or replace some of it with a healthier alternative, such as olive oil or avocado oil.
  • Increase the proportion of spinach and basil to boost the nutrient content of the dish.
  • Use a smaller portion of pasta and serve the mac and cheese with a side salad or roasted vegetables to create a more balanced meal.
  • Experiment with alternative pasta options, such as chickpea or lentil pasta, which are higher in protein and fiber compared to traditional wheat pasta.

By making these adjustments, you can enjoy a healthier version of this tasty pesto havarti mac and cheese while still indulging in its comforting flavors.

Editor's Thoughts on This Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe

The combination of the spinach pesto and havarti cheese adds a delightful twist to the classic mac and cheese. The pesto brings a fresh and herby flavor, while the havarti cheese provides a creamy and slightly tangy richness. The use of whole wheat elbow macaroni adds a nutty undertone, enhancing the overall depth of the dish. The recipe's clear instructions make it accessible for home cooks, and the option to freeze the pesto for future use adds convenience. Overall, this pesto havarti mac and cheese recipe is a creative and flavorful take on a beloved comfort food.

Enhance Your Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Asparagus: Tender asparagus spears roasted to perfection with a garlic parmesan crust.
Honey Sriracha Glazed Chicken Wings: Crispy chicken wings coated in a sweet and spicy honey sriracha glaze.
Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Risotto: Creamy and flavorful risotto with caramelized onions and mushrooms, a perfect complement to the pesto havarti mac and cheese.

Alternative Recipes Similar to Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

Creamy Chicken Alfredo: This creamy chicken alfredo recipe is a classic Italian dish that combines tender chicken, al dente pasta, and a rich, cheesy sauce. It's the perfect comfort food for a cozy night in.
Grilled Vegetable Salad: This grilled vegetable salad is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy your favorite veggies. The smoky flavor from the grill adds a new dimension to the salad, making it a perfect side dish for any meal.
Berry Cobbler: This berry cobbler recipe is a sweet and fruity dessert that's perfect for summer. The combination of juicy berries and a buttery, crumbly topping is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Suggested Appetizers and Desserts to Serve with Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese

Appetizers:
Stuffed Mushrooms: Create a savory and indulgent appetizer by stuffing mushrooms with a mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and herbs. Top with breadcrumbs and bake until golden and crispy.
Caprese Skewers: Impress your guests with these elegant and refreshing skewers featuring cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and fresh basil. Drizzle with balsamic glaze for a burst of flavor.
Desserts:
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth texture and decadent flavor will satisfy any chocolate lover's cravings.
Berry Parfait: Layered with fresh berries, creamy yogurt, and crunchy granola, this berry parfait is a delightful combination of sweet and tangy flavors. The vibrant colors and refreshing taste make it a perfect dessert for any occasion.

Why trust this Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese Recipe:

This recipe offers a unique twist on the classic mac and cheese, incorporating a homemade spinach pesto that adds a burst of fresh flavor. The use of whole wheat elbow macaroni provides a healthier alternative without compromising on taste. The inclusion of havarti cheese brings a creamy and slightly tangy element to the dish, enhancing its richness. The step-by-step instructions ensure a seamless cooking experience, and the versatility of the pesto allows for future use in various culinary creations. Trust the combination of quality ingredients and expertly crafted flavors to elevate your mac and cheese game.

Share your thoughts on this Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese recipe in the Recipe Sharing forum and let us know how it turned out for you!
FAQ:
Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
Yes, you can use any type of pasta you prefer. While the recipe calls for whole wheat elbow macaroni, feel free to use traditional elbow macaroni, penne, or any other pasta shape you enjoy.
Can I substitute the havarti cheese with another type of cheese?
Absolutely! If you don't have havarti cheese, you can use mozzarella, cheddar, gouda, or any other melting cheese of your choice. Each cheese will bring its own unique flavor to the dish.
How can I make the pesto ahead of time?
You can prepare the pesto ahead of time and store it in the fridge in a covered container for up to 2 weeks. Another option is to pour the pesto into ice cube molds and freeze it for up to 6 months. This way, you can have pesto ready whenever you need it.
Can I make this recipe vegetarian?
Yes, this recipe can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetarian-friendly versions of the parmesan cheese and ensuring the pesto and cheese are vegetarian. You can also add in some sautéed vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms for extra flavor.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Absolutely! You can use gluten-free pasta and ensure that all the other ingredients, including the flour used for the sauce, are certified gluten-free. This way, you can enjoy a delicious gluten-free pesto havarti mac and cheese.

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