Sausage and Pesto Mac and Cheese

homemade mac and cheese with italian sausage and pesto

Classic homemade mac and cheese gets a flavor upgrade with the addition of Italian sausage and pesto. This easy twist is sure to become a family favorite. 


  • 16 ounces dry pasta
  • 2 pounds sausage (ground/links)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 6 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
  • 6 cups milk
  • 24 oz. sharp cheddar cheese*
  • 1/4 cup pesto**


  1. In a large pasta pot, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook to al dente, according to directions on package. Once pasta is done, drain and set aside, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large deep-sided pot (6-quart is a good size) over medium heat. Add sausage to pan. If using sausage links, cut into 1/2 inch pieces before adding to pan.
  3. While sausage is cooking, prepare cheese sauce ingredients. Set butter to side. Mix together cornstarch, ground mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Measure milk. Shred cheese, if needed.
  4. Once sausage is cooked through to a temp of 155-165°F, turn off heat, unless cheese sauce ingredients are ready to add.
  5. With sausage still in pan, over medium heat, add butter.
  6. Once butter is melted, stir in the cornstarch and seasoning mixture until sausage is evenly coated.
  7. If baking the mac and cheese, preheat oven to 375°F.
  8. Add milk to sausage mixture, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, stirring in until thickened before adding more milk.
  9. Once all milk is stirred in and mixture is thickened, add cheese. The cheese will thicken it even more to a saucier consistency.
  10. Once cheese is stirred in, mix pasta and sausage cheese sauce together.
  11. If serving from stovetop, top with pesto and swirl into mac and cheese.
  12. If baking: Put into 9×13 oven-safe baking dish. There will be more mac and cheese than fills this pan. I usually have another 9×11 pan of mac and cheese, which we use as lunches or put in the freezer.
  13. Dot top of mac and cheese with spoonfuls of pesto and lightly swirl in. Also called, take a fork and just kind of jab it in a bit. We don’t have patience for elegance around here.
  14. If baking, put in preheated oven for 20 minutes. (Total cook time includes baking for 20 minutes).


  • Cheese: I like to use New York or extra sharp cheddar. You could also use a blend of your favorite cheeses. Using a 6 ounces of gouda in place of some cheddar makes a creamier mac and cheese.
  • Pesto: this is “ish.” You may want to use a bit more or less. The amount really comes down to preference.

Keywords: mac and cheese recipe, macaroni and cheese, homemade mac and cheese, mac and cheese with sausage