Mac and cheese cures all.

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I


…tantrumy husbands.

…tantrumy toddlers.

…which are pretty much the same thing.

…rainy days.

…sad faces.

…loose jeans.


You know, like HUGE things!

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

This makes my head spin.

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

Lots o’ green stuff.

A little peppery and almost neon… this arugula pesto took one of my favorite crispy shrimp dishes to a whole new level last year. Basil pesto, what? I don’t even know you anymore. This was one of the first recipes I ever shared (hellllo freaky pictures) and still makes the top ten of which I whip up just about every month to have on hand.

People… It rarely happens. Like, never. Because boredom calls to me like a creeper in the night.

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

And while I think that mac and cheese is simply perfect on it’s own… that whole boredom creep grabs me and sometimes I torture the pasta.

Good torture, I promise.

Like, adding an arugula pesto swirl type of torture.

Otherwise known as… ruining-my-husband’s-side-dish-torture.

Otherwise known as… one of the only things I succeed at in my itty bitty life.

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

We served this with the maple bourbon pork chops and those brussels sprouts I’ll tell you about later, and holy FLAVOR POP. And while I pretty much watched him attempt to pick out every single solitary speck of pesto (can this be done?), he soon gave up and scarfed it. And was happy.

Leading me to believe that just as I thought… I am always right. Today marriage is great.*

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

Arugula Pesto and White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

serves 4-6

4 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta (smallish pasta works best, like elbow noodles, etc)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

10 ounces freshly grated white cheddar cheese + more for topping

pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup arugula pesto 

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions. I always shave a few minutes off the cooking time since it will be going in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, add flour and whisk until smooth to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden and has a nutty aroma. Add milk and cream, bring to a boil while constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and add cheese, then cook for a few minutes while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, then taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Add pasta to a baking dish and pour cheese sauce over top. Stir to distribute sauce, then stir in pesto. Top with additional grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly.


Arugula Pesto

4 cups arugula

1/3 cup asiago cheese

3 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine garlic, arugula and cheese. Pulse until combined. Stream in olive oil a tablespoon at a time until the pesto becomes smooth.

White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese I

*I made this over a week ago. I’ve since changed my stance.

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114 Responses to “White Cheddar + Arugula Pesto Mac and Cheese.”

  1. #
    janetha — January 25, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    This is such a grown up mac n cheese! Yum.


  2. #
    Kiran @ — January 25, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    That pesto is the besto! Drool-worthy photos :)


  3. #
    Connie — January 25, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    This is a really sophisticated macaroni and cheese, I think it would be lovely for a dinner party. The color of the pesto is so lively, just gorgeous.


  4. #
    MegsieMay — January 25, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    Ah-May-Zing. This looks delicious! Thanks so much for the inspiration!


  5. #
    Jen Marie — January 25, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

    Holy moly this looks like a winner!

    Look at the crispy crunchy cheese pieces! Crispy crunchy cheese is my total fav.


  6. #
    Brandi — January 25, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    Hahahaha, LOVED the starred line at the end!!!!


  7. #
    Leah — January 25, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    I really want to try this!! SO, i seem to be utterly spatially challenged today… what size pan do you use to bake it? Kind of looks like 8 x 8 but i don’t trust myself today!


  8. #
    honeywhatscooking — January 25, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    wow, this just looks heavenly. so so good. pesto and mac and cheese = but of course!!!


  9. #
    Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy — January 25, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    I love making pesto with arugula. Especially when it’s cold outside and I don’t have a pesto plant (fighting for it’s life and) providing me with fresh basil leaves. I haven’t made it in forever either, so this must be a sign from the pesto gods.


  10. #
    kaceyt @ om& — January 25, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    I am completely with you on the magical powers of mac and cheese! Fixes everything! We just had mac with gruyere, nutmeg and bacon last night…loved it! Thanks for yet another delicious recipe to try:)


  11. #
    Krissy @ Krissy's Creations — January 25, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    I’m drooling! Mac & Cheese is my favorite… LOVE. I would soooooo eat up that bowl right now!


  12. #
    Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes — January 25, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    This post cracked me up! Mac and cheese is my weakness!!! Can’t wait to try this…I need a food processor!


  13. #
    Sally @ Spontaneous Hausfrau — January 25, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

    Arugula makes the world go round, so I think this pesto would make my toes cross. Which may, actually, make my heels more comfortably. It’s all good.


  14. #
    Becca @ Cook, Rejoice, Repeat — January 25, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

    Ooh, yummy! This looks absolutely amazing! I bet it would be delicious using tricolour tortellini, too.


  15. #
    Katie @ — January 25, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

    So when can I come over for dinner? I’ll bring my puppy, some red wine, and an old Marilyn Monroe movie. And my sweat pants. See, I can do my part very well.


  16. #
    Kare — January 25, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    Oh, gosh. This looks amazing. You’ve done it again!


  17. #
    Julia — January 25, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

    This looks amazing! I’m a huge white cheddar fan and I’m dying to try this!


  18. #
    Kilee — January 25, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    Two of my biggest stomach-ache producing ingredients in one dish: wheat and dairy. However, you are such a fabulous recipe developer that you make me want to recreate all of your recipes to be gluten & dairy free. That just shows how talented you are. Your photographs and recipes are always to-die-for!


  19. #
    Lauren — January 25, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    I wanna hear the story about you changing your stance on marriage! Lol!


  20. #
    sage — January 25, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

    ok, i’m new – first time viewer of your blog and i’ve fallen in love with just this post! so happy to be drooling over your blog, thank you!!! now if only i can make something taste good from it :)


  21. #
    Jolene ( — January 25, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

    This sounds very fancy, and it is lovely!!! That arugula makes some greeeeen looking pesto! Delish!


  22. #
    HIP LIP — January 25, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

    YUM! This looks delicious.


  23. #
    Chrissy — January 25, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    That pesto picture is GORGEOUS. The green just pops! Do they have some kind of blog photo awards? ‘Cause that should win it…


  24. #
    Quiche-ing Queen — January 25, 2012 @ 9:50 pm



  25. #
    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) — January 25, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    Mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods. I think I would eat it if there were tires in it. Fortunately, this one looks much better than the tire version. :)


  26. #
    Living The Sweet Life — January 25, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

    You had me with ” Mac and cheese cures all.” – – love. pure cheesy-goodness love.


  27. #
    Kimiko — January 25, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    Omg this looks so good…I really need to purchase a food processor. Just so I can make this. OR maybe I should beg my boyfriend to buy me one…and use this recipe as bribery. Hmmmm…….


  28. #
    Zesty Cook — January 25, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

    Holy cow. I love, love, love sassy spins on classic mac and cheese! Also I love a gal who’s not afraid to use a little heavy cream. It makes everything taste better!


  29. #
    Sloane @ My Life in Florida — January 26, 2012 @ 12:36 am

    This looks amazing!! Anything with pesto has to be good though!!


  30. #
    nicole {sweet peony} — January 26, 2012 @ 1:24 am

    i loooove mac & cheese but am always too scared to try variations. this looks awesome with the addition of pesto… love the green :)


  31. #
    Mama Pea — January 26, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    Um, I have like all eight of those problems you just listed. I need some mac n’ cheese.


  32. #
    Caylee — January 26, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    Grown up mac and cheese, indeed.


  33. #
    char @ char on a mission — January 26, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    I don’t know where you come up with these ideas for inspiration, but I LOVE it. The only problem is that you’re not cooking these for me! You must have tons of food leftover all the time. Right? ….riiiiight?! I will be your official taste-tester ANY day!


  34. #
    Mrs. Jen B — January 26, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    See, I don’t think I could make this because my husband wouldn’t just give up and eat it with the pesto. He would just turn up his nose at it (because he has no sense of adventure) and pretend it didn’t exist.

    Wait a minute. I’m saying this like it’s a bad thing. More for ME!


  35. #
    Lisa [With Style and Grace] — January 26, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    your photos are OUTSTANDING!! I’ll take an order of the arugula pesto, please :)


  36. #
    kristi — January 26, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

    Yep, this is definitely on the list of dishes-to-make-all-for-myself when the hubs is out of town. The countdown is down to the hours. And the Ruffino chianti is in the backseat of my car.


  37. #
    WenDee Riffe — January 27, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    ooo my word~~this loooks uuuuuhhhh~maaa~zing!!!!


  38. #
    Renaissanc Austin — January 28, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    Can’t wait to try this!


  39. #
    Lucie (Thursday Night Dinner) — January 30, 2012 @ 11:24 am

    I have to add mac and cheese to the things that I miss post about being gluten free, i definitely need to make this with some gluten free pasta and bread crumbs. this looks divine and I cannot wait to try it out!!!


  40. #
    Katie — January 30, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    Just made this tonight and it was so tasty! Now what do I do with the rest of my arugula?


  41. #
    Kevin (Closet Cooking) — January 31, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

    Pesto in mac n cheese is so good!


  42. #
    Roxanne — February 2, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

    Made it – LOVED it. This was soo good and my husband thought I was a very fancy chef, what with the fancy pesto and all. Thanks for the recipe we’re totally keeping it


  43. #
    NancyC — February 9, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    Oh my oh my oh my. Made this last night, except I was very very lazy and used TJs regular fresh pesto (I can’t make pesto on a weeknight, we wouldn’t eat til 10!). It was amazing otherwise. Confession: We ate the whole thing, my husband and I. I was never so happy and ashamed at the same time :-)


  44. #
    Flight Training — February 22, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

    LOL! If this cures tantrumy husbands and toddlers (I have two…toddlers, not husbands) then count me IN!! We are a newly turned veggie family (sounds very “vampire-y”) and I am on the constant look out for the PERFECT mac and cheese! This looks delicious…pesto and nutmeg are two of my favorite ways to jazz up food! Thank you! Pinning on Pinterest :)


  45. #
    Kita — February 26, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Excuse my but holy hells and yes please. I need this.


  46. #
    Jackie — February 26, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

    Made this last night for dinner and it was absolutely delicious. Thanks for the great recipe!


  47. #
    idiosyncratic eye — March 20, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    You have inspired us! We had a jar of pesto in the fridge so I swirled it through our macaroni cheese as I remembered this recipe from when it was first posted. Husband was horrifed but is now addicted. I’ve had to make it again since! Thank you. :)


  48. #
    Manda — June 24, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

    You my dear are brilliant! Fell in love with the pesto by itself and was sort of skeptical about adding it to the cheese sauce but I did and all I can say is…. Amazing!! SOO yum!


  49. #
    Erin — April 20, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

    So I made a super adapted version of this because I didn’t have the right ingredients, and heaven help me. It was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. No blender so I threw in a pound of fresh kale, no nutmeg so I added paprika and then added a squirt of dijon for good measure. This is going to be a problem because I’m going to want to make versions of this recipe all the time.



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