This mac and cheese with fresh basil and artichokes takes the classic to new heights! The sauce is infused with basil and made with a blend of melted cheeses. No roux! (P.S. Your kids will love this, too!)
For the mac and cheese:
- Salt for the pasta water
- 3/4 pound pasta, such as elbows or cavatappi
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature and cut into chunks
- 1 cup grated Fontina (about 3 ounces)
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar (about 3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)
- 1 (8-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into bite size pieces
- Pinch cayenne pepper
For the toasted breadcrumbs (optional):
- 1 cup soft, fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of salt
1 Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander and reserve the pot. You are going to return the pot to the stove after making the basil cream.
2 Make the basil cream: Combine basil, heavy cream, milk, and cream cheese in the blender. Puree until smooth. Return the pot used to boil the pasta to the stove, and set it over medium heat. Add the basil cream to the pot, and bring it to a low simmer.
3 Make the sauce: Add the Fontina, cheddar, Parmesan, and cayenne pepper to the basil cream sauce, stirring until melted. Stir in the cooked pasta and artichokes. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is heated all the way through.
4 Toast the breadcrumbs (optional): In a skillet over medium heat, combine the breadcrumbs, oil, and salt. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned and crisp.
5 Serve the mac and cheese: Transfer the pasta to bowls and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs, or don’t. It’s your call.