Smoky Cheddar and Gruyere Mac and Cheese Recipe
I’m on day 3 of unboxing the Aldi Cheese Advent Calendar and our third recipe is a Smoky Cheddar and Gruyère mac and cheese. Cheddar and Gruyère are both bold cheeses that hold up beautifully when smoked and this mac and cheese is packed full of flavor perfect for bringing as a side to a bbq.
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Using Cheese in Mac and Cheese
When you eat a piece of cheese, pay attention to when the flavor starts to develop. Sometimes it hits you immediately but fades quickly. These are what I call opener cheeses. Other times the cheesy flavor takes a few seconds to build but carries on throughout the bite. These are closer cheeses. Well balanced mac and cheese recipes make use of opener and closer flavors so the flavor carries throughout the bite.
If you forced me to identify my favorite cheese, it would hands down be sharp cheddar. It’s the quintessential cheese, and I would bet if you walk into your closest grocery store, there would be several varieties of cheddar to choose from. Cheddar is an opener cheese that balances beautifully with a variety of closer cheeses.
However, opener and closer flavors are not limited to cheese. This cheddar is smoked, which comes out beautifully closing a mac and cheese. You’ll want to make sure and balance a smoked opener cheese with a closer that can hold its own against the smoky flavors.
Gruyère (groo-yair) is a cheese from Switzerland. It’s packed with flavor and sits beautifully as a closer cheese. It’s bold and holds its own against the other strong flavors in this recipe.
Lumache Pasta in Extra Mature Cheddar and Gruyere Mac and Cheese
While the cheeses are an important choice when developing a mac and cheese recipe, you could make the argument that the pasta plays as big of a role in mac and cheese. If your pasta is too large, your dish will be cumbersome and annoying to eat, making it an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, if your pasta is too small, you run the risk of your dish becoming a soupy mess. Not only that, but if you’re a beginner mac and cheese chef, small pasta will more easily show defects in your sauce.
In this smoky cheddar and Gruyère mac and cheese recipe, I used lumache which is also sometimes marketed as shellbows. One side of the noodle is open and shaped like shell pasta, which curves around to another end that is pinched closed. It offers plenty of pockets to hold onto the cheese sauce, making it a great option for a mac and cheese vehicle.
While your really only need pasta and cheese sauce to make mac and cheese, toppings are a fun bonus that add extra pops of color, texture, and flavor to your dish.
One of my favorite ways to add a crispy texture to mac and cheese is through crushed croutons, but these mini crouton shakers save you from having to crush them yourself. It’s great to keep on hand for any time you need to add some extra texture to a dish, and it was perfect on this mac and cheese.
Using another sauce as a condiment adds interesting flavors to your mac and cheese without requiring the effort of creating a whole new sauce. By layering it with the other toppings, it creates a dynamic experience where each bite is slightly different from the last.
Reheating Smoky Cheddar and Gruyère Mac and Cheese
Reheating mac and cheese is difficult at best. Some mac and cheese recipes cannot be reheated, and leave you with a greasy soggy mess. Fortunately, bechamel based sauces like this one reheat very well. A minute or so per serving is all you need to have delicious warm mac and cheese. In fact, giving the ingredients a chance to meld together in the refrigerator makes your mac and cheese even more delicious.
Add a Fork
Smoky Cheddar and Gruyere mac and cheese is bold, flavorful, and the perfect dish to have as a meal on its own or paired beside another more substantial entree.
Smoky Cheddar and Gruyere Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 pound Lumache (shellbows) or other medium sized pasta
For the Sauce
- 3 tbsp Butter
- 3 tbsp Flour
- 3 cups Whole milk
- 4 oz Smoky cheddar grated fresh
- 4 oz Gruyère Grated grated fresh
- ½ tbsp Better than bullion Chicken flavor
- 1 tsp Ground mustard
- Mini crouton shaker A few dashes
- Honey Crisp Sauce
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in well salted water. If you think it’s salty enough, add more.
Prepare the Sauce
- Pre heat your milk in the microwave for 45 seconds – just enough to take the chill out of it.
- Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and let it heat until it becomes foamy.
- Mix in flour. Cook it for a minute while stirring constantly
- Slowly add warmed milk to the butter mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Whisk it continually until combined. Stir in mustard powder and Better than Bullion
- Once all of the milk is added, cook for a few minutes while whisking it. Do not let it boil. You will feel the sauce start to thicken. It’s ready for cheese when you rub a small amount between your fingers and it feels silky.
- Remove from heat and stir in your cheese until it’s melted and mixed into the sauce.
- Once the cheese is incorporated, use a cooked noodle to taste your sauce. If it doesn’t taste cheesy enough try adding a little more salt to bring out the flavor.
- Combine the pasta and sauce.
Plate Your Mac and Cheese
- Layer pasta with mini croutons and a drizzle of honey crisp sauce. Serve immediately.