This creamy, cozy Mac and Cheese with Broccoli is the ultimate comfort food – and it sneaks in some veggies that kids will love! Made all in one pot and with basic ingredients, it’s the perfect weeknight meal.
Perfectly Cheesy Macaroni with Crisp-Tender Broccoli Florets
As a kid, broccoli with cheese sauce really didn’t seem like a vegetable, right? Healthy, bright-green broccoli isn’t always super appealing to kids, but a velvety cheese sauce could change that in a heartbeat. That’s why I like adding broccoli to my mac and cheese. I’m already making a cheesy, homemade sauce, so the broccoli is a perfect fit, and a healthy one, too.
This recipe will show you exactly how to make mac and cheese with broccoli from scratch. Don’t worry, it’s super easy and doesn’t take long at all. Those boxed macaroni and cheese dishes might just be a thing of the past after you try this simple dish!
The Ingredients You’ll Need
To make your own broccoli macaroni and cheese, you’ll need a few basic ingredients, including elbow macaroni (or your favorite medium pasta shape), and of course, broccoli. I like to use florets, since they don’t usually have any tough pieces.
- Elbow Macaroni: Some good substitutes include farfalle (bow ties), penne, rotini, and fusilli.
- Broccoli Florets: Snap the broccoli florets off of a fresh head of broccoli, and wash them well – or just use frozen broccoli florets.
- Butter: Salted butter is fine, but unsalted butter allows you to control the saltiness of the recipe more easily.
- Flour: The flour and butter combine to thicken your cheese sauce. All-purpose flour is what you want – not self-rising, which has other ingredients in it.
- Milk and Cream: You can use any milk that you like. I usually go with whole dairy milk. For the cream, choose heavy whipping cream.
- Salt and Pepper
- Cheese: Shredded, sharp cheddar cheese.
- Parsley: Totally optional, but makes a nice garnish.
What Are the Three Best Cheeses for Mac and Cheese?
Any kind of good melting cheese will work for mac and cheese with broccoli, but you will probably enjoy the dish best if you choose a cheese with a bold, classic, “cheesy” taste like cheddar. Gruyere, gouda, and havarti are also delicious choices, usually combined with other cheeses to make a balanced flavor. I highly recommend using at least one sharp, bold cheese so that the dish doesn’t turn out too bland.
What Milk Is Best for Mac and Cheese?
While non-dairy milks have come a long way and really work well in a lot of recipes, I think you get the very best flavor by using good-quality whole dairy milk and heavy cream. However, the flour and butter combination in this recipe will thicken up the sauce even if you use (most) non dairy milks, or low-fat milk, half and half, etc.
How to Make Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
This is a true one-pot meal, which makes the whole idea of cooking from scratch so much easier, don’t you think? Plus, cleanup is a snap.
- Cook the Pasta and Broccoli. The first step is to bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it generously. Once it boils, add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli along with the pasta, and cook it for 3 minutes. Drain, and set aside.
- Make a Roux. Return the empty pot to the stove, and place the butter in it to melt over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk the two ingredients to make a paste. Keep whisking it until it turns a golden-brown color. This is your roux.
- Add the Milk and Cream. Once the roux is golden-brown, slowly pour in the milk, followed by the heavy cream, whisking the mixture constantly to prevent lumps.
- Cook the Sauce Until It Thickens. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let it simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add Cheese. Take the sauce off of the heat, and fold in your shredded cheese until it’s fully melted.
- Finish the Dish. Mix the drained broccoli and pasta into the cheese sauce, garnish with fresh parsley (if you are using that) and serve.
Every recipe can be tweaked and changed up, so feel free to make this one your own. Here are just a few easy ideas for adding to the recipe, and making the most of the ingredients.
- Use Herbs: Throw your favorite fresh herbs in this recipe – think parsley, chives, or basil. Yum.
- Add Protein: You can add your favorite protein to this dish to make it an even heartier mac – try diced ham, grilled chicken, or even tuna. Yum!
- Use Freshly-Grated Cheese: Most pre-shredded cheeses are packaged with anti-caking ingredients, which can make your melted cheese dish a little less creamy. To avoid this, I recommend grating or shredding the cheese yourself, with a box grater.
- Add Onion: Finely-diced onions sauteed in butter go really well in this recipe, so feel free to saute about half an onion’s worth in the butter before you add the flour to the pot, and continue the recipe.
Mac and cheese with broccoli works really well as a hearty, filling vegetarian main course. It also makes a great comforting side dish, served alongside your favorite mains, like these:
- Pot Roast: I love, love, love a good pot roast – chuck roasts and other tough cuts of beef are so tender and flavorful when it’s slow roasted! My Pot Roast Slow Cooker Recipe is incredibly easy to make, and is sure to be a hit with the family.
- Meatloaf: Macaroni and meatloaf? It’s meant to be! Especially when you use this great copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Recipe.
- Grilled Chicken: Sweet, tangy Grilled Rosemary Honey Mustard Chicken is awesome with cheesy broccoli mac, and you don’t need an outdoor grill to make it! If the weather isn’t grilling-friendly, just pull out a grill pan or even a cast-iron skillet, and you’ll be in honey mustard heaven.
- Pulled Pork: If you’re going more bbq dinner style, this broccoli mac and cheese would be amazing with my favorite Crockpot Pulled Pork and some Baked Beans!
Storing and Reheating the Leftovers
Mac and cheese with broccoli can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it slowly over low heat in a covered saucepan, or just microwave it for a couple of short bursts, stirring between each burst.
Can I Freeze Mac and Cheese with Broccoli?
Definitely – this mac and cheese can be cooled, packed into freezer containers, and stored in the freezer for up to three months. To serve, just take out the container, thaw it overnight in the fridge, and then heat the macaroni on the stove or in the microwave.
Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
- 16 oz macaroni pasta
- 2 heaping cups broccoli florets
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Parsley, optional garnish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously, add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes.
- About 3 minutes before the pasta is ready, add in the broccoli and cook it for 3 minutes. Then drain the pasta and broccoli and set it aside.
- Return the pot to the stove, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until it turns a golden-brown color creating a roux.
- Once the roux has reached the proper color, slowly pour in the milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
- Mix in the salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the pot from the heat then fold in the cheese until fully melted. Then mix the broccoli and pasta into the sauce.
- Serve and garnish with freshly minced parsley, if desired.
More Cozy Pasta Recipes
- Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Million Dollar Spaghetti
- Fettuccini Alfredo Sauce with Cream Cheese
- Homemade Hamburger Helper
- Best Shrimp Alfredo
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