This Broccoli Cheddar Soup Mac and Cheese is your favorite indulgent fall soup condensed into a luscious mac and cheese that adults and kids will equally love.
Last week, the temperatures dropped, the first few orange and brown-hued leaves of fall fell to the ground and I found myself in a deep hunger battle between an indulgent mac and cheese and my favorite indulgent soup – broccoli cheddar.
This isn’t an uncommon predicament I find myself in since broccoli cheddar soup and mac and cheese happen to be two of my most beloved guilty pleasures, and now that I have a picky toddler who shares my love of cheesy pastas, they seem to pop up more often than they probably should.
While I’m sure he’d like to slurp up a bowl of soup, something tells me that the contents on the spoon would only make it to his mouth about two percent of the time, and that’s a generous assumption. With that in mind, I thought that if I could condense the soup down to a sauce, while retaining basically all the same ingredients and flavors, and pair it with some noodles, I’d have a winning combination neither one of us could say no to.
If the constant shoveling of food wasn’t confirmation enough, the emphatic “Mmmmmmmm mmmm” incessantly coming out of Teddy’s mouth with each bite really solidified my initial thoughts. And obviously I was smitten too.
Literally, if I had to describe this soup, I’d say it tastes like broccoli cheddar soup in mac and cheese form. It’s not overly cheesy in the cheese-pull sense, since it’s irresistibly creamy, but has a prominent sharp cheddar flavor you can’t miss.
Like the Panera version, it’s full of soft broccoli, shredded carrots and plenty of chopped onion. The soup base is a mix of low-sodium chicken stock and velvety heavy cream, which in my opinion makes the perfect light, but still indulgent cream sauce. A hint of nutmeg is the underlying flavor that adds just a little bit of warmth to the soup without completely changing the flavor profile.
To start, the onion and carrots are sautéed in a little bit of butter, and once they’re somewhat softened, a quarter cup of flour is whisked in and cooked for a minute until that raw flour taste cooks out. From there, the chicken broth, cream and nutmeg get whisked in, brought up to a boil and then reduced to a simmer until it thickens. Once that happens, the whole pot comes off the heat and then the shredded cheddar cheese is gently stirred in.
Since the broccoli cheddar component is a sauce, it doesn’t simmer for a long period of time on the stove, so the broccoli actually needs to be cooked ahead of time. So what I do is throw it in with the pasta when the noodles are about six minutes shy of cooked and then drain it all together before tossing it with the thickened sauce.
I skip the serving dish and scoop the creamy broccoli cheddar mac and cheese into bowls alongside crusty ciabatta or sourdough rolls.
For more hearty fall soups, check out these posts:
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
- 1 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3/4 cup warm low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- 3/4 cup warm heavy cream
- 1 cup warm whole milk
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 lb cavatappi pasta
- 3 cups chopped broccoli (however small or large you prefer)
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season liberally with salt, it should taste like the sea.
- Add butter to a large skillet. Turn the heat on medium and once butter melts, add onion, carrot and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sweat the onions and carrots until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute.
- Mix chicken stock, heavy cream and milk in a large measuring cup. Slowly whisk mixture into butter, flour and vegetable mixture making sure there are no lumps. I like to add about 1/3, and whisk it in completely before adding the rest, which helps to prevent lumps. Add another teaspoon of salt, nutmeg and pepper, whisk. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Once the sauce is thickened, remove from the heat and working in batches, stir the cheese until melted. I like to add the cheese in thirds, stirring until each batch has melted before adding the next. This helps to ensure a creamy sauce.
- While the sauce thickens, add pasta to the boiling water. Once it cooks for a couple of minutes, add the broccoli. When the broccoli is soft and bright green and the pasta is aldente, drain.
- Place pasta and broccoli back in the pot and then pour the cheese sauce along with the remaining salt on top. Toss until combined. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Serve with crusty bread.