Broccoli and cheddar baked shells is comfort food at its finest! This classic macaroni and cheese is quick and easy for family meals, and upscale enough for company.
broccoli and white cheddar baked shells is the creamy, cozy, and comforting pasta dish you need this fall
Do you love those white cheddar shells that come in a box? Yep, me too. Well this is like a grown-up, fancy (but easy!!) version of that comforting classic, with lots of fresh broccoli added in for a little boost of vitamins. The best part is, once you’ve made this super easy mac-and-cheese style sauce, you’ll realize just how customizable it is for all sorts of creamy, delicious dishes all fall and winter.
it’s all about the sharp white cheddar
Nutty, sharp white cheddar cheese is the flavor hero of this recipe, so I recommend getting the best, sharpest of sharp cheddars you can find! Remember that the flavor will be diluted in the sauce, so you’ll want to start with strong enough cheese to shine through in the finished dish.
- You can use either pre-shredded or shred your own block of white cheddar, whichever you prefer. You’ll need about 3 1/2 cups of shredded cheese total.
- Prefer orange cheddar? Go right ahead! There’s no flavor difference between white and orange cheddar, I just think the dish looks prettier with white cheese.
- Feeling a little fancy? Try swapping out some of the sharp cheddar for another complementary hard cheese like Gruyere, Parmesan, or Asiago.
the cheddar sauce is so easy you can memorize it
Seriously, I’m not kidding. It’s the same ratio as my basic mac and cheese sauce, but scaled up slightly because this recipe uses a whole pound of pasta. All of the ingredient amounts start with the number “3,” making it super easy to whip up without constantly checking your phone while you’ve got butter and cheese on your fingers.
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 cups shredded cheese
- seasoned with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg (if it sounds weird, try it! It brings a subtle little flavor note to the dish that is really lovely)
tips and tricks for making the perfect cheese sauce
Mac and cheese is all about that glorious creamy cheese sauce. But don’t let fear of a curdled sauce keep you from making this fabulous comfort food. With my tips you’ll have no trouble at all, promise.
- MAKE A ROUX: it’s as easy as melting butter in a saucepan, adding flour, and whisking it together until it’s very smooth with no lumps. Allow it to bubble away over medium heat for a minute or two to cook the flour, and you’re done! A roux helps to thicken the sauce, and can also be used for thickening gravies and stews.
- ADD MILK: remember to add just a little bit at first so that you have a chance to whisk it smoothly into the roux. If you add too much, it will be impossible to whisk all the little lumps of the roux into the milk. So start slow, and then once the mixture is smooth, you can add the rest of the milk.
- HEAT IT ALL UP: next you’re going to want to heat the milk and roux mixture until it juuuust starts to simmer. I define this as seeing the first few small bubbles come up in the middle of the pan (there will be small, foamy bubbles around the outside of the mixture, too.) Stir occasionally as the milk heats up so you don’t get any scalded milk on the bottom of the pan.
- TIME FOR THE CHEESE: take the pan off the heat, and stir in just a little bit of the cheese. This not only helps you melt the cheese in evenly, but it also makes it less likely to curdle and split. Continue to very slowly add a couple of handfuls of the shredded cheese, then once that’s melted in, you can add the rest and stir it all together.
- if your cheese isn’t quite melting in all the way, you can return your pan to a very low heat to encourage everything to melt together. But don’t heat it up too much or you risk splitting the sauce.
more ways to enjoy broccoli cheese
- Irresistible Broccoli Cheese Dip!
- Broccoli Stilton Soup
- Broccoli Cheese Casserole (the ultimate make ahead recipe)
- Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Chowder
- Broccoli Parmesan Chicken Soup
Broccoli and White Cheddar Baked Shells
- 1 lb dried pasta shells
- 6 cups chopped broccoli, loosely packed
for the white cheddar sauce
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Boil the pasta until it is al dente (it will cook a little bit more in the cheese sauce, so don't overcook it), adding the chopped broccoli into the boiling water a minute or two before the pasta is done cooking. Drain, season lightly with salt and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour to make a roux.
- Cook the roux (it should be bubbling, but not turning brown) for a couple of minutes, and then slowly add the milk, a little at a time, whisking well between each addition to keep the sauce smooth.
- When all the milk has been added, gently bring the mixture up to a simmer.
- Once you start to see the mixture simmer, take it off the heat, and add the shredded cheese, starting with just 1/4 cup or so, and mixing it in to the sauce. Then add the the rest of the cheese in a couple batches, mixing each addition in.
- When the cheese has melted into the sauce, toss it with the pasta and broccoli, and transfer everything to an oven safe baker.
- Top with the 1/2 cup extra shredded cheddar cheese, and bake for about 15-20 minutes until bubbling. You can broil the baked pasta for another couple of minutes for a browned top if you like.