Some foods leave me feeling spoiled; luxurious, decadent, maybe I shouldn’t have but I did, spoiled. This Deer Valley recipe for Mac and Cheese gives me that feeling. It’s that comfort food, homey sort of feeling – the one many get when they return home for a cooked meal from family or friends. I love so many things about this recipe but taste aside (yes it is the best Mac and Cheese you’ll ever make- creamy, rich, with crunchy pasta edges and a slight hint of smokiness from the smoked cheddar), another wonderful thing about this recipe is that it makes enough so that you can enjoy half immediately and freeze the other half for another day. Maybe I’ll bake my second batch on a gloomy winter day when I just need a big spoonful of goodness.
At Deer Valley’s Grocery Cafe they have a whole freezer section with homemade comforting foods just like this one that you can pick up and bake at home. Their freezer foods put to shame any freezer meal that you had before. These are gourmet foods, made with high quality ingredients, that when reheated make you melt with happiness they are so tasty!
Here are a few other items you can pick up at their Grocery Cafe : Butternut Squash Enchiladas, Lasagna, Chicken Pot Pie, and Polenta with Chicken and Mushrooms. Those talented Deer Valley Chefs will spoil you right in your own home!
One of the reasons this baked mac and cheese recipe is SOO good is that it has four cheeses in it, yes four and a good amount of spices. So, it does take a little effort but I feel like if I am going to splurge and make mac and cheese it should be well worth it in flavor (credit cradle here). So, for best results use a traditional macaroni and high quality cheese – no cutting corners here!
And since holidays are a fine excuse to splurge this Mac and Cheese would make a fabulous holiday side dish! You could even make it in advance and freeze it so you have one less thing to make on the big day! What other foods are you making in advance this holiday season?
Here are some more mac and cheese recipes that I’m loving –
Lobster Mac and Cheese by Foodie Crush
Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese with Pancetta Parmesan Crust by Mountain Mama Cooks
Light Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese by Cookin Canuck
Quinoa Spinach Mac and Cheese by Two Peas and Their Pod
Baked White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound macaroni pasta
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 quart half and half
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar
- ½ cup smoked cheddar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 dash ground nutmeg
- 1 dash cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 and grease a large rectangular baking dish.
- Cook macaroni in salted water till al dente drain and cool.
- For cheese sauce, melt butter in large sauce pot, add flour and mix and cook for 1-2 minutes on low heat to make blonde roux. Slowly add cold half and half whisking in between additions to prevent lumps. Cook sauce for 5 minutes, then add heavy cream, cream cheese, smoked cheddar, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, onion powder, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, season with salt and pepper.
- Mix gruyere and 1 cup of white cheddar with cold pasta. Add cheese sauce and mix well. Pour into greased baking dish top with rest of white cheddar. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Yes’m! I agree! This needs to be on the holiday table,
Can you tell me if this is gritty? My husband refuses to eat yellow cheese and every time I’ve tried mac n cheese with white cheddar its like I put sand in it!!!!
Tina, I think it may be the flour that is sometimes added into mac and cheese recipes that makes it gritty. I didn’t notice this being gritty but I have noticed that in the past. If you make this and it turns out gritty, please let me know. It hasn’t been for us!
Tina, I think Becky may be right about it being the flour, be sure to cook the flour and butter on medium low… just lightly bubbling, for quite a few minutes to cook out the raw flour taste, and help hydrate the flour. Add the cold liquids all at once whisking quickly and constantly to help dissolve the fat-covered flour as fast as possible… this may be when the grit is formed if the flour bit cook in the liquid instead of dissolve, which i why good hydration of the flour really helps… when the sauce has thickened and you’re ready to add the cheeses take the pot off the heat and let it sit a minute, then add the cheeses a handful at a time stirring lightly between handfuls to melt, cream cheese goes in last. Save some of the hot pasta water to thin sauce if it tightens up too much, or if you want to add cream heat it up to pretty warm for better incorporation. Happy saucing 🙂
*if the floury bits cook in the liquid…* sorry
Wanda, thank you so much for your detailed response!! I so appreciate it! Hopefully there will be no more gritty mac and cheese!!! Take care, Becky
This recipe does sound fantastic. A bowl after a long day of skiing would be fantastic.
Thanks Barbara!! It would be perfect post-ski day 🙂
When are you supposed to add the heavy cream? It’s on the ingredient list…but not on the instructions.
Thanks for catching that Emilie! I just updated the recipe. Add the cream with the cheese.
To avoid a gritty texture, do not allow your sauce to come up to a boil once you start adding the cheeses. 🙂
Great tip, thanks Pamela!
Do you cook this before you freeze it?
Sharilyn, you can do either way. I usually don’t cook then thaw and bake just like i did the first half but you could also bake it then freeze, thaw, then bake for a shorter time to reheat.
This is by far our family’s favorite mac and cheese version. Sophisticated but simple. The weather is just starting to get cooler here in So Cal and I’m thinking….this is whats for dinner tonight! Great Pictures!
Thanks so much Sara! It is my all time favorite too. A classic 🙂 Enjoy!
My son and I made this fabulous Mac and cheese today. So good! I want to make it for the holidays. Should I bake it and then freeze it or freeze it and then thaw and bake?
Sharon, I make it all then freeze, then thaw and bake! Enjoy
I plan to serve this at my Christmas party for 20 ppl. If I double the recipe will that be enough food. I’m assuming two pans would be better than one?
Carol, If you plan to have like 5-8 side dishes then one recipe of this should be enough but if you have maybe 3-4 sides then I would double it!
What size baking dish did you use for this? I plan on doubling it for Thanksgiving, and wanted to see if it would all fit into my 13×9 (3 QT) Pyrex.
Carrie, before doubling it would fit perfectly into a 13×9!
I’m worried about using that much dijon. Is the mustard noticeable at all?
Shay, the dijon is hardly noticeable at all. But you certainly don’t have to use it! You could use less or use none at all and I think it would still be delicious!
Hi, this recipe sounds perfect for our holiday dinner! I have to ask about the make ahead part, I understand you make everything and freeze and then bake day of. Do you put everything in the 9X13 pan and then put it into the freezer? Sorry, silly question, but I want to make sure this comes out perfect!
Kristin, Yes, make everything and then freeze it, covered tightly, in you baking pan. You can either let it thaw then bake or bake for longer. Hope that helps! Enjoy
One quart of half and half? Is this correct,
Merl, yes, that’s right!
Is there something i can use in place of the gruyere?
I did some googling and it looks like you could replace it with swiss cheese, emmantal or comte. Hope that helps!
I just literally made this and it came out deliciously and gritty
I meant and no gritty sorry and yes instead of the smoked cheddar because I couldn’t find it I just added asiago cheese
Thanks for letting me know Denise! Glad you enjoyed it.
Have I missed how many this recipe feeds somewhere in the above? I am making for 12 and want to make sure that I make enough. IT SOUNDS DELISH!!!
Kristy, it feeds 10-12 easily as a side dish. Hope that helps!
Hi there, how large should the baking dish be?
Hailey, I use a standard 9×13 dish. Or you could split it into two if you want to freeze half. Enjoy!
Hi. Does this mac n cheese save well? I want to make some for dinner tonight and was wondering if I could leave some for lunch tomorrow.
Rachel, it would be great the next day! I would reheat it over the stove top or in the oven. enjoy!
Hi! Could I assemble this on Christmas Eve, refrigerate and then bake on Christmas Day?
Kate, That would definitely work! Just a note, I find that if I refrigerate mac and cheese the night before baking then the pasta soaks up all of the liquid and its more dry. It will still taste great. Maybe try adding more liquid. Another option would be to freeze (then you can make it several days before) and bake from frozen. It will take longer to bake but it will retain it’s moisture better this way. Hope this helps.
For those that have made ahead – is the making ahead just the assembly process before the actual oven baking?
Also after freezing, what were the results. Did you thaw 1st or bake from frozen. Tips will be helpful.
I want to make this for a homecoming open house for my daughter and I will be traveling out of the country and need to prep food before I leave.
Thanks in advance for the help
I like to assemble then freeze before baking then bake from frozen. I find this makes for the best results. If I leave it out for too long (in the fridge) before freezing the pasta absorbs all of the liquid and cheese. Let me know if you have any more questions!
I followed the directions exactly but the sauce broke when I baked it. It still tasted good but is wasn’t creamy because of the curdled consistancy. Any tips for baking it differently so that the sauce doesn’t break?
Brianna, thanks so much for reporting back! I’m not sure what happened but you do need to slowly att the half n half to the butter/flour mix, and whisk the whole time you’re adding it in. Then continue stirring and wait until this mixture is hot (bubble or almost boiling) before adding the rest of the ingredients (about 5 minutes). Hope this helps! Making a white sauce (or béchamel) can be tricky but once you get the hang of it its fun to make all the time and you can switch it up and make it as an alfredo or creamy pesto sauce, white pizza sauce or whatever you’d like!
What temp do you cook with the half & half at? Medium head?
Medium low to heat it up!