This Pesto Mac ‘n’ Cheese is not your traditional Mac ‘n’ Cheese, but trust me when I say this is as good, maybe even better because of the additional flavor that the pesto gave the pasta. It wouldn’t hurt to try something different from time to time, so why not give this a try, because it is really worth it.
Pesto Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Obviously, the addition of Pesto Sauce is what makes this Mac ‘n’ Cheese a different twist to the traditional Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I used my homemade Spinach Pesto Sauce. If you can,I encourage you to make your own pesto instead of buying it. Homemade Pesto is 100% better than store-bought, no preservatives added plus you get to use fresh herbs and that makes a HUGE difference. The texture is better, and you will not end up with a Pesto swimming in almost 1/4 portion oil on top.
Baked in a Ramekin
This Mac N Cheese was baked in a 3-inch ramekin, which I think is just the perfect single serving portion especially for something as rich and creamy as this. So creamy you are literally eating melted cheese on a bed of aldente macaroni pasta.
What is Ramekin?
Ramekins are individual baking dishes that are three to four inches in diameter. It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes There are different kind of ramekins, ceramic being the most common one. Ramekins are made of durable ceramic, tempered glass, aluminum, melamine or porcelain. Ramekins are oven and dishwasher safe, microwave and freezer safe. They come in variety of sizes from 1.5 to 7-ounces.
Where Can You Use Ramekin?
Ramekin became popular for its use for making Creme Brule and Flan, but more than that it can be used for so many purpose now. You can make individual sized portion meat-loaf, pot pies, French onion soup, soufflés, pasta dish, tarts, mini cakes and muffins.
Baking in Ramekin
I personally think that baking in ramekins gives a better presentation to bake products or dish. You can serve it on it, no need for plates, no muffin liners needed, and they are reusable. But if you like to serve this muffin out of the ramekin, you can do that too. Line the bottom of the ramekin with parchment paper so that it release easily. Run a knife or silicone spatula around the side and turn the ramekin upside down to release the muffin. Transfer in a plate.
No Egg, Instead We are Making a Roux
A what? So you might be asking, what on earth is a roux? Don’t panic, it’s not a complicated as it sounds. It’s juts a fancy kitchen term for a flour, butter and milk paste. This makes the sauce thick even without the addition to cornstarch or egg yolk. Roux is usually used for making sauces or soup I help thicken the consistency. When making a roux, stick to 1:1 ratio, that is 1 equal amount of butter to flour. In this recipe, I used 2 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoon of flour.
How to Make Homemade Pesto
Pesto is a thick sauce (almost like a paste) usually made by blending garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, cheese and olive oil. It can used for pasta, for salad as well as for flatbread and pizza too.
Making pesto sauce at home is not as easy as it sounds. As long as you have a food chopper, blender or food processor, you can make your own pesto at home. Sadly, it is going to be difficult to make this manually as you want everything to be almost like a paste consistency. I like to use Spinach when making pesto, but you can go with a more traditional recipe using Basil or perhaps a combination of both. Making pesto is basically just blending everything together until the mixture turns into a paste like consistency. Once done, simply transfer it in an airtight container and pour more oil to cover the top.
How to Make Pesto Mac ‘n’ Cheese
- Make the Pesto, or you can use store-bought too
- Cook the Macaroni Pasta
- Make the Panko Bread Crumbs Topping. Again, if you have panko bread crumbs on hand, use it. This make a lot of difference, it adds a lot of texture and crunch which I find really nice. I like to toast it for few minutes with little amount of oil just to brown it.
- Make the Roux or the flour and butter paste. Stick to the 1:1 ratio. This is the base thickener. To this simply add milk, more milk means a thinner sauce. You can adjust it to your preference.
- Add Pesto and grated cheese. I used 2 tablespoon, you can use less. remember adding more will result to a thicker sauce. Once you have the sauce ready pour 1/3 cup to the pasta, add more cheese and mix. Transfer in serving dish, in this case I used 2 3-inch ramekins. Add grated mozzarella cheese on top.
- Sprinkle toasted Panko Bread Crumbs on top of the pasta.
- Bake for 10 minutes just to melt the cheese
Tips in Baking in Ramekin
- Although ramekin is freezer safe, when using it to freeze single serving dishes, Do NOT take the ramekins out of the freezer and place it directly into a heated oven. You can either take it out from the freezer and move to the refrigerator to being the temperature down or leave in counter top for at least 30 minutes. You can also put it in the an unheated and allow the oven and the ramekin to heat simultaneously.
- Do NOT run a cold water to a heated ramekin as the sudden change of temperature could cause the ramekin to crack.
- Do NOT use ramekin in direct heat, liken on top of burner Or stove top.
- To be safe, always read packaging for the limitations of the ramekin in terms of heat, how high you can use it in the oven.
- 2 tablespoon unsalted Butter
- 2 tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
- 8 tablespoon Full Fat Milk
- 1/3 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Paprika
- 4 tablespoon Pesto Sauce
- 50g Mozzarella Cheese (grated)
- 3 tablespoon Panko Bread Crumb
- 1/2 teaspoon Oil (to grease the pan)
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon Paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon Salt
- Cook the Pasta as per package instruction. The one I used took 13 minutes to get to aldente stage, firm pasta and not soggy and mushy. Set aside.
- Make the Panko Bread Crumbs Toppings: in a heated pan, spray or grease the pan with flavorless oil. Add the Panko bread crumbs, salt, peppers and Italian seasoning. Toast for about 2 minutes it until slightly brown. Set aside
- Make the Roux: In a pan, add the butter and wait for it to get fully melted. Add the flour and mix continuously until a light paste form. Pour the milk and whisk continuously until the consistency becomes thick. Add salt, peppers, garlic powder then stir. Add the pesto sauce and 2 tablespoon grated mozzarella cheese and mix until the cheese is fully melted. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. For a thinner sauce, add more milk.
- Mix: Pour 3/4 of the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix until pasta if fully coated. Add 2 tablespoon grated cheese and mix.
- Divide: Transfer in 2 ramekins or a any oven safe dish about 3-inch deep that will hold the amount of this Mac and cheese. Divide the remaining cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese and toasted panko bread crumbs.
- Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.
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