Mac and Cheese Primavera

I love Mac and
Cheese, but honestly am not good at making it. I was trying to just distract myself one day and stumbled across an episode of Pioneer Woman. This cooking show by Lee Drummond is filmed in her home on a ranch.  I like a lot of what she does, although I often find her recipes have way too much butter, sugar and cheese.

This day she was making a cheesy pasta primavera with small shells which I adore. It was super easy, so decided to give it a try this week.  And I decided I would offer it as a vegetarian one dish meal.  My husband is a true meat lover, so told him he could always pull out a few strips of the bacon to have with it.  

I had to change up just a couple things.  I couldn't find the Fontina Cheese she used.  In a quick web search for the best substitutes, I found Provolone was recommended, so snagged that.  Also the tiny amount of white wine wasn't worth opening a bottle for, so subbed an equal amount of broth (I used chicken broth, but you could use vegetarian).  

A half recipe did make three servings, I love leftovers for lunch the next day, so a full recipe would easily work for six, especially if you add bread and a side salad. You could also put leftover ham in it for a more traditional meal, or serve this as a side dish. It only took me roughly 30 minutes from start to finish, so it's quick to make. 

While the water heated to cook the pasta, I cut up the veggies and grated the cheese. After putting the pasta in the boiling water, I started cooking the sauce.  Then I just drained the pasta and combined them both. I found I liked the sauce just a bit thicker so added a little more cornstarch than she did.


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Mac and Cheese Primavera
6 servings


1 lb.                    Pasta shells (small or medium depending what you prefer)
2 T                      Salted butter 
2 T                      Olive oil 
1 C                     Small broccoli florets
2                         Green Onions, sliced, whites and green parts separated 
2 cloves              Garlic, minced 
1 bunch              Asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces 
                       Red bell pepper (medium) diced 
1 tsp                   salt 
1/2 tsp                Freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 C                  Dry white wine (or chicken or vegetable broth)
2 C                     Whole milk 
1/2 C                  Heavy cream 
1 C                     Frozen peas
1 C                     Shredded fontina cheese (I subbed Provolone)
1 C                     Shredded white Cheddar 
3 tsp                    Cornstarch (she said 2 tsp but it was a little runny for me)


Heat pot of water to boiling. While it is heating, prepare the veggies and grate the cheese. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside. 

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, scallion whites, garlic, asparagus and bell pepper. Season with the salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. 

Splash in the wine and allow it to reduce for 1 minute. Add the milk and cream and continue to cook until warmed through. Stir in the peas. Toss together the fontina, Cheddar and cornstarch in a bowl. While stirring the sauce, sprinkle in the cheese mixture. Stir until the cheese is completely melted. 

Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken, about 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with fresh bread and side salads.