Macaroni and Cheese Primavera

July 18, 2013 (Last Updated: March 18, 2020)
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a green, yellow, and white bowl filled with baked macaroni and cheese

I have been making some variation of this macaroni and cheese for many many years. I cut out a recipe from a random magazine sometime in the mid-90’s and have been tweaking it over time. The point of the recipe was to create a relatively healthy macaroni and cheese full of vegetables.

side view of baked macaroni and cheese in a glass baking dish showing through the glass

I believe it originally included skim milk and reduced fat cheese, as it does now. For the record, I usually use skim or low-fat milk when I make macaroni and cheese anyway. It’s what I drink and it’s what I use in life. I’ve never had any complaints 🙂

overhead view of pasta, cheese sauce, zucchini, summer squash, and peas in a glass baking dish

The mixture of zuccchini and/or yellow summer squash, peas, and tomatoes (albeit canned–you can easily use fresh if you so desire) creates a nice balance of veggies that are nearly as plentiful as the pasta itself.

boiled tricolor pasta drained in a metal colander

I used to solely stick to rotini for this dish, but recently discovered Ronzoni’s Garden Delight pastas. One of the varieties called Trio Italiano features not only three colors of pasta, but three different shapes that all cook together in harmonious delight! It works really well for this dish!

overhead view of a bowl of macaroni and cheese with breadcrumb topping

I somehow always manage to not slice my zucchini thin enough, and it tends to retain a bit more crunch than most people like (although I love it!). Make sure you cut it fairly thin so it cooks evenly in the oven.

a closeup of a glass casserole dish of baked macaroni and cheese with golden breadcrumb topping

Also, the amount of sauce for this dish is a lot less than most macaroni and cheeses I make otherwise. Keep in mind that the vegetables will release some water themselves which will lend more liquid to the sauce. In the end, it all works out.

closeup side view of a bowl of baked macaroni and cheese with colorful pasta and breadcrumbs
a green, yellow, and white bowl filled with baked macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese Primavera

This easy recipe for homemade baked macaroni and cheese features fresh zucchini, peas, and tomatoes for a picture perfect casserole.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 430 kcal


  • 1 pound short pasta such as rotini
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups skim milk heated to a simmer
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or simply a mixture of dried basil and dried oregano works)
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese grated
  • 12 ounces zucchini/summer squash (one small of each), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (plain or Italian-style work equally well)
  • 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (fresh or dried)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside.
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta for about half as long as the box suggests for al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and then whisk in the flour. Add the hot milk slowly, whisking continuously, until it creates a smooth sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, still whisking so it doesn’t burn, and allow it to slightly thicken for a few minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat and add the salt, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Then stir in the cheese until it is completely melted. Add the vegetables and cooked pasta and stir to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it out evenly.
  • Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and stir it into the bread crumbs. Top the macaroni and cheese with the bread crumbs and then bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly. Switch to the broiler and broil for another couple minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Serve immediately.

Notes & Nutrition

  • This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 430 calories, 12 g fat, 22 g protein, 59 g carbs, 5 g fiber
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*
a bowl of baked macaroni and cheese with zucchini, summer squash, and peas

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