Start with classic cheddar mac and cheese. Add summer vegetables like zucchini, corn, and tomatoes, and fresh basil. Finish with breadcrumbs toasted on the stove. No need to turn your oven on.
It might not be known as the most sophisticated gourmet meal, but we do both love a good mac and cheese. During the colder months, I always finish mac and cheese in the oven, to get crispy cheese on the sides, like in my Swiss Alps Mac and Cheese.
I like to make all different variations on mac and cheese, like adding chicken, steak, or roasted vegetables. In this summery version, I added zucchini, fresh corn, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, and fresh basil. I kept it stove-top only so you don’t need to turn on the oven. Toasting the breadcrumbs on the stove makes a nice crispy topping.
We’re not technically at the start of summer yet, but I can’t help but get excited for summer produce. Except for the corn, these vegetables are all available year-round. You could use frozen corn, but I like to cook with fresh sweet corn as often as I can while it’s in season.
Of course I used whole wheat pasta. I shared my thoughts on that in this post. But any short-cut pasta you like will work in this recipe.
Here are the main ingredients. That’s a pound of whole wheat shells, ¾ pound of shredded cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, corn, and basil.
While the pasta was cooking, I sautéed the vegetables.
Later while the sauce was simmering, I toasted the breadcrumbs.
When the sauce was done, I stirred in the cheese.
Next I stirred in the cooked pasta and veggies.
Wait until right before serving to top with the breadcrumbs (especially if you are eating leftovers). You want those toasted breadcrumbs to stay crispy and provide a nice texture contrast.
Summer Vegetable Mac and Cheese (Stovetop)
- 1 pound whole wheat shells, or other short-cut pasta of choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 zucchini, cut into half moons
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- 2 ears corn - cut off kernels
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus additional for garnish
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4 cups 2% milk
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (While you are waiting, continue to next steps.) Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and leave pasta in colander.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium. Add corn kernels and cook 3 more minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons basil. Remove from heat.
In the same pot used to cook the pasta, melt ½ cup butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring almost constantly. Start adding milk, a splash at a time. Stir so the mixture is completely smooth before adding another splash of milk. After you’ve gotten through the first cup of milk, you can start adding it in ½ cup increments until all the milk is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is simmering, toast breadcrumbs. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring very often, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Watch closely so breadcrumbs don’t burn.
Remove sauce from heat. Stir in both cheeses and stir until all cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Add drained pasta and vegetables and stir to combine.
To serve: Divide pasta between serving plates and top with toasted bread crumbs and more basil.