Mac and cheese is one of life’s ultimate comfort foods. Cozy up with a plate of this rich and cheesy, Pesto Penne and Cheese to while away whatever worries you may have.
I grew up eating mac and cheese from a box. I had read about someone making it from scratch in a children’s novel, but it wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that I ever had homemade. Oh my word.
This was NOT the same thing that I had grown up eating. It was so much richer and cheesier. I was smitten immediately.
I was baby-sitting for the Giordano family; Mrs. Giordano had left a casserole of this mac and cheese that was amazing. I got the recipe from her before I left and an adaptation of that became my Easiest Mac and Cheese. I could make that in my sleep, it’s so easy.
But I think this one may be my current favorite.
Loosely based on my Easiest Mac and Cheese, this pasta and cheese casserole takes the old classic to new heights. Rich pesto and intense sun-dried tomatoes take the humble mac-and- cheese casserole and make it something a little more.
If I don’t make my own pesto, I typically buy it in bulk at Costco. It’s got great flavor and it’s a super good price, about $4 for a big jar. Freeze it in smaller portions if you don’t think you’ll use it all. Or do some batch cooking to use it up quickly. This Pesto Penne and Cheese is an awesome use for it.
Remember you can freeze cheese that you won’t use right away. Package shredded or crumbled cheeses in portion sizes so you can whip up recipes in a matter of minutes.
This casserole, from my first cookbook, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, is freezer-friendly, so if you make it this week, why not make a double (or triple) batch. If you do that enough times in a week or month, you’ll quickly and easily fill your freezer.
Pesto Penne and Cheese
- 16 oz penne pasta
- 6 oz mozzarella cheese (shredded) (1 ½ cups)
- 8 oz jack cheese cubed
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¾ cup sundried tomatoes (julienned)
- ½ cup pesto
- black pepper
- 1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 × 13-inch inch baking dish.
- Cook the pasta just until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, the Monterey Jack, sour cream, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the drained noodles.
- Spoon the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup mozzarella cheese over the top.
- Bake the casserole until heated through, about 30 minutes. Stir to recombine the cheese sauce and noodles before serving. Sprinkle the parsley over the top.
- To freeze: After step 3, cover and chill the pan in the refrigerator before freezing. Wrap, label, and freeze. The day before serving, thaw the casserole in the refrigerator. Proceed with step 5, adding 5 to 10 minutes baking time if the dish is very cold.