Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Mac And Cheese

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Enlightening Entrees!

2 tablespoon - extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups elbow macaroni (or your favorite type of pasta!)
2 cloves - garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons - flour
1/2 teaspoon - salt
1/8 teaspoon - freshly ground black pepper
3 cups - half-and-half (*For a lower fat option, use regular/skim milk!!)
2 cups – shredded cheddar cheese (sharp or mild, your choice)
3/4 cup - Asiago cheese, shredded (can use Parmesan as well)
1/4 cup – Panko Bread Crumbs

PESTO:

2 cloves of garlic
1 cup sun dried tomatoes (feel free to use the kind marinating in garlic oil!)
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup flat leaf parsley
½ cup toasted walnuts (substitute pine nuts for more traditional pesto) NUTS ARE OPTIONAL – the sauce would be fine if you needed to leave them out.
1 cup good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp of lemon zest plus the juice of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese (OPTIONAL- Cheese-less version is GREAT and healthier!)
A pinch of red pepper flakes (or cayenne) for some heat
1 finely diced onion

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick spray.

PESTO:

1.    Sauté diced onions in olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once golden brown, set aside.

2.    If using the nuts, toast them in a frying pan to release the oils (be sure to keep a close eye on them because they can burn fast!).

3.    Put the toasted walnuts in a food processor (with a metal blade) and process them until a fine mixture.

4.    Add in basil leaves, garlic, sundried tomatoes, parsley, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

5.    Process the mixture for about 20 seconds while drizzling the olive oil in to make an emulsion.

6.    Then open the processor and push the sides down that haven’t been processed and add the Parmesan cheese and process again for another 20 seconds.

7.    Once the ingredients are fully incorporated, add in the sautéed onions and mix thoroughly.

PASTA:

1.    Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

2.    Drain and then combine with the pesto sauce. Mix – coating the pasta with the pesto. Set aside.

3.    In a large pot over low heat, melt butter and add olive oil.

4.    Add flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.

5.    Increase the heat to medium, add in salt and pepper, and, with a wire whisk, gradually add the half & half or milk.

6.    Bring to a boil while continuously stirring.

7.    Reduce heat, and then simmer for 1 minute. Stir in 1 3/4 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese and 1/2 cup Asiago cheese until melted and smooth.

8.    Add cooked pasta with pesto and stir to combine.

9.    Pour into buttered (or sprayed) casserole dish.

TOPPING:

To make topping, combine remaining tablespoon olive oil, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese, and 1/4 cup Asiago cheese in a small mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. Sprinkle on top of pasta. Bake for 25 min, or until cheese is bubbly and topping golden brown. Serves 8.