The Creamiest Broccoli Shells and Cheese.
These broccoli shells and cheese are better than any boxed version! Super creamy, cheesy pasta shells tossed with broccoli florets. It’s the most wonderful meal!
Hello new favorite mac and cheese!
These are the creamiest shells and cheese that rival the boxed version – the one that is SO creamy you don’t think you can beat it!
Here we are. We’re going to beat it!
So here’s the funny thing about making mac and cheese from scratch. Specially, mac and cheese like this, which really resembled the creamy boxed kind, in a good way.
The kids still don’t always love it!
One of you told me on instagram years ago that kids tend enjoy boxed mac and cheese and things like pancakes from a box or store-bought cookies because they are always consistently the same. There is no change and they are exactly the same every.single.time.
I feel this and it made so much sense to me!
So I’ve always been on a mission to create a mac and cheese the resembles the boxed version we love.
Yes, this may sound crazy! Mother Lovett made amazing baked mac and cheese – I also have tons of recipes for baked and stovetop mac and cheese varieties. They are all really good.
But this one takes the cake. Seriously. It’s so cheesy and creamy and perfect.
Ever since I fell in love with broccoli, it’s been my go-to add in for stovetop mac and cheese. It’s just so simple and the flavor is incredible. When I did baby led weaning with the kids, broccoli was one of their first foods. I added it to their mac and cheese before they knew mac and cheese without broccoli. It’s always been a staple!
How the broccoli shells and cheese goes down:
- I boil the water for the pasta, then toss the broccoli in first. Just for a minute or so to blanch it! I then remove it and throw it in ice water to keep that gorgeous green color.
- Throw the pasta into that same water! Boom, easy as that. The broccoli gives the pasta water a little flavor. Again, in a good way. I promise. It’s a little broccoli-ish. Ha!
- While this is happening, I make a little cheese sauce in another pan. I know, it’s nothing new. And I probably have 50 recipes for cheese sauces like this on the blog. I do some cream and milk, a little cream cheese, and tons of freshly grated cheddar. It MUST be freshly grated!! This is what makes it extra creamy.
- The cheese sauce may seem slightly thinner than normal, but this is what you want. It keeps the mixture so super creamy. Just like the good boxed version. It will also thicken as it sits and gets cooler.
- Then I toss the entire thing together and SERVE. Serve it right away for maximum creaminess. The good news is that leftovers are good too – just not as super creamy.
Now of course, you know we adore roasted broccoli. You could always just roast some on the side and toss it in here. Kind of like how I do with this skillet ricotta pasta!
You could also add anything else you love here. Crispy onions? Chopped up chicken? Anything! Make it a clean-out-the-fridge meal. You know I love those. I talk about them constantly.
This dish is absolute PERFECTION. Take your time with the cheese sauce so it’s extra smooth and creamy.
It tastes so nostalgically wonderful – I can promise it will be a huge hit!
Broccoli Shells and Cheese
Broccoli Shells and Cheese
- 1 ½ cups broccoli florets, about 2 heads of broccoli (I like small florets here)
- 16 ounces medium pasta shells
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 16 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- kosher salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the broccoli florets. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place the broccoli in an ice bath or run ice cold water over it to stop it from cooking.
- Add the pasta to the same boiling water. Cook according to the directions. Once the pasta has finished, drain it from the pot. You can combine it and the broccoli in that same pot.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour to create a roux. Whisk and cook until it’s golden and smelling nutty, about 2 minutes.
- Mix the cream and milk in a measuring cup. Very slowly stream the mixture in, whisking the entire time. I steam it in about ¼ cup at a time, whisking the entire time, until it’s all incorporated. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens a bit. Stir in the cream cheese until it melts.
- Turn off the heat. Add the cheese in small handfuls, stirring slowly and until completely melted. You’re going to add in about ¾ of the cheese - around 12 ounces. This will take awhile to stir and melt slowly. Don’t increase the heat because you want it to melt without getting grainy!
- Taste the cheese sauce and season with a pinch of salt and pepper as needed. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and broccoli in the pot. Stir to combine. Once it’s all combined, I like to stir in the extra grated cheese as I serve it. This gives it an extra melty factor!