It may not seem like much, but homemade mac and cheese done right is utterly magical. So magical, in fact, that I’m pretty sure this dish is 90% of the reason Reed fell in love with me. One of the first meals I ever cooked for him was this mac and cheese and a thick ribeye steak. When paired with crisp white wine and a summer day on the patio it was…say it with me now…magical. So here it is…my SECRET mac and cheese recipe that I have NEVER shared before.

I’ve been making this mac and cheese for over a decade, experimenting with different cheeses and add-ins. There are times I’ll read a magazine or watch the cooking channel and think “I could be so much more creative with my cheese choices” but then I always find myself coming back to the same combo I thought up as a kid. Smoked Gouda adds such a depth of flavor and the extra sharpness of white cheddar helps cut through the richness that is mac and cheese. The Gruyere is just a cherry on top.

I’m sharing my base mac and cheese recipe with you because I want you to have the tools to really get creative! Reed love when I add lobster or bacon but you could even do mushrooms and spinach with chunks of goat cheese mixed in. The world is your casserole dish and this recipe is your blank canvas. If you do get creative – I’d love to hear what you make! Share your creations in the comments section below.

F&W Secret Recipe: Mac and Cheese

My magic mac and cheese recipe! This is the perfect base for add-ins like lobster and bacon, just stir them in before you move the pasta to the casserole dish. Feel free to get creative!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 box pasta I like using rigatoni but shells or bows are great options too
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups 2% milk
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp whit cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded smoked gouda
  • 1 cup shredded applewood smoked Gruyere cheese


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside
  • Prepare pasta according to box instructions. Keep the pasta a little more al dente as you will be baking it as well
  • In a separate large pot melt the butter, add flour, and whisk until the mixture turns golden brown
  • Add milk and continue whisking until the mixture thickens
  • Add cheese, salt, and pepper, and whisk until melted and fully incorporated
  • Add cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir until combined and cheese is evenly distributed
  • It's at this point you can stir in any add-ins you might want – like cooked bacon, mushrooms, cooked lobster – of course this dish is delicious even with no add-ins!
  • Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly
  • Serve on its own in a big 'ole bowl or as a side dish – and enjoy!
Keyword casserole, cheese, comfort food, mac and cheeese, pasta