The Simple Way To Add More Texture To Pesto Mac And Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is kind of a blank slate since it takes on the flavor of whatever ingredients you might think to put in it, whether you add buffalo chicken, lobster, or kimchi to the mix. In this recipe, developer Christina Musgrave puts a Mediterranean spin on the dish by stirring in some jarred pesto sauce and using mozzarella and parmesan cheeses instead of mysterious orange glop. The one thing this recipe may be missing is a crunchy topping — like most stovetop macaroni and cheese recipes, it sticks to being smooth and creamy.

Musgrave does have a suggestion for adding some texture to her pesto mac and cheese. "You can definitely add a crunchy breadcrumb crust," she tells us, advising that the breadcrumbs be toasted in a pan with some butter. Any kind of bread will work, as long as it's stale enough to crumble. If your bread is still fresh and soft, you can always dry it in the oven (set it at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and give it about 15 minutes or so) before tearing it into pieces and grinding them up in a food processor.

You can also bake the dish for extra crunch

We appreciate the simplicity of Musgrave's one-pot macaroni and cheese recipe (well, two pots, if you count the one for boiling the noodles). Even so, if you really want crunchy instead of creamy, the best way is to bake it. The conversion process isn't difficult at all — simply follow the recipe all the way to the end, but instead of dishing it up, scoop the pasta into a greased casserole pan.

Once the macaroni and cheese is in the pan, you can sprinkle it with your breadcrumb topping, mixing the crumbs with parmesan if you want it extra cheesy. Bake it at 350 F for about half an hour or until the crumbs are crunchy and brown. Since the pasta and sauce are already fully cooked, all you're really doing here is giving the topping some extra browning time. If you don't want to wait a full half hour, your mac and cheese will still be perfectly okay to eat after 20 minutes or even 10. The longer it bakes, though, the crunchier the topping will get — as long as you take it out before it burns, of course.