This creamy stovetop Pesto Mac and Cheese with bacon, tomatoes, basil pesto, smoked gouda, and cheddar cheese is an ode to farmer’s markets and can be ready for dinner in under an hour.


Bacon and Pesto Macaroni and Cheese with homemade basil pesto

Tuesday night when I went for my evening walk at the park, it was so chilly, you’d think it was the end of September, not the end of August.

I was wearing capris and didn’t have a jacket, so it was quite a brisk walk.

At the end, I wish I had a hot cup of cider or thick hot chocolate to warm me up! I even started craving a pumpkin spice latte.

Is summer really over now? Is it time to start wearing jeans again and keeping a jacket in the car?

I’m both ready and not ready for fall. I don’t think I can bring myself to eat pumpkin yet, so I’m going to continue on with another farmer’s market inspired dinner – Pesto Mac and Cheese.

Apparently it’s the summer of mac and cheese because this is my third recipe in two months, but I can’t help it!

It’s creamy. It’s comforting. It’s fresh with herbs and tomatoes.

Although you can make homemade basil pesto any day of the year, summer is usually when fresh herbs are in abundance at farmer’s markets.

Then of course there are the fresh grape tomatoes. I’ve even seen baby heirloom tomatoes at the market you can use.

This pesto mac and cheese recipe is everything you want and can be ready for dinner in under an hour.


Homemade Basil Pesto with parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil

Basil is my favorite herb to use in pesto, but really you can use any herb you have on hand.

I highly recommend buying fresh herbs from a farmer than the grocery store. Not only is it usually cheaper, it’s much fresher too.

If you can’t buy any from a farmer and you have the room for it, buy a basil plant from your local greenhouse. It ends up being cheaper (and fresher) in the long run.

Then after you make your mac and cheese, you can make pesto dip and pesto burgers.


Bacon and Pesto Macaroni and Cheese with homemade basil pesto

I used a combination of cheddar and smoked gouda for the cheese sauce.

This was my first time trying smoked gouda and certainly won’t be my last.

The smokiness really adds a nice depth of flavor to the pasta, so I highly recommend trying it at least once in this recipe.

Of course if you don’t want to use two cheeses, you can use 1 cup of one variety.


Bacon and Pesto Macaroni and Cheese with homemade basil pesto
Bacon and Pesto Macaroni and Cheese with homemade basil pesto

Pesto Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Stovetop Pesto Mac and Cheese with bacon, tomatoes, basil pesto, smoked gouda, and cheddar cheese can be ready for dinner in under an hour.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 slices uncooked bacon
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated smoked gouda
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher)
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a big handful of salt then add macaroni. Cook as directed on the package until al dente, about 7-8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the bacon to a cold large skillet and turn the heat on to medium. Once the bacon starts cooking, cook on one side for a few minutes until crispy then flip and finish cooking the other side. Remove the bacon and place on a plate lined with a paper towel; pat off as much grease as you can. When cool enough to handle, crumble bacon. Leave the bacon drippings in the skillet.
  3. Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes or until soften (if there isn't enough bacon grease, add 1 tablespoon butter).
  4. Stir in the flour to coat and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil and cook until it starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in the gouda, cheddar, pesto, and salt until melted. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some milk to thin it out.
  6. Once everything is ready, mix together the cooked pasta, sauce, and tomatoes.

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