I grew up on macaroni and cheese. As a kid I probably ate it once a week or more. Typically it was the cheapest cardboard box of macaroni and cheese we could find with the powder packet of orange cheese-like product. And as unappealing as that sounds right now, it was heavenly when I ate it back then. I used to make it with a bit more butter or margarine that it called for and would always add a bit more milk too, for a nice creamy saucy mac. And of course there were those occasions where we’d get really fancy and mix in some chopped up hot dogs or cooked hamburger for an added bonus.

As an adult I’m always excited to try more advanced or flavorful varieties of mac & cheese that people come up with. I really love food with a crunchy crispy layer on top, so when I saw this recipe from the American Grilled Cheese Cafe here in San Francisco I was excited to try it and put my own spin on it.

Here is my version…


Gourmet Mac & Cheese


  • 7 tablespoons salted butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour (I didn’t use gluten free)
  • 4 cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked al dente, any kind you like
  • 8oz Hoffman’s Smokey Sharp Cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup (4 oz) gruyere, shredded (mixed together with cheddar) I used Swiss Castle Wedges
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Panko Bread crumbs
  • 1 bunch of green onions chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix shredded sharp cheddar, parmesan cheese and gruyere cheese together in a bowl, set aside.

    All the cheeses


    Cheeses mixed together

  3. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a medium heavy bottom saucepan over medium-low heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour; keep whisking until roux thickens and lets of a nutty aroma, 2-3 minutes. (mine took longer)


    Melting the butter

  4. Add milk in a thin stream to roux, whisking as you go.


    Pouring in the milk

  5. Add cayenne, mustard, salt and pepper. Allow mixture to come to a low boil, continuing to whisk.


    Mixing in the spices

  6. Simmer sauce until thickened, about 2 minutes, then turn off heat and stir in the onion and all but ½ cup of shredded cheeses.


    Melting the cheese and onions in the sauce.

  7. Stir in cooked, drained macaroni into cheese sauce, or pour the sauce over your macaroni, either way, mix them together.


    Joining the sauce and noodles

  8. Pour entire contents into buttered casserole dish (a 3-Qt dish is the right size).


    Sauce and noodles in the dish.

  9. In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs and remaining ½ cup cheese. Sprinkle evenly over macaroni.


    Panko and cheese on top

  10. Bake in middle of oven 25-30 minutes, until golden, bubbling and with your desired amount of crispy cheese edges.


    Ready to Serve

  11. Serve along side your favorite vegetable, we paired it with some asparagus.


    Final product

This macaroni and cheese turned out fantastic. It was super creamy and had crispy edges and a very tasty crust on type. The cayenne adds a perfect bit of heat to the sweet and creamy cheese. Next time I make it I’ll be adding more sauce. The second day we ate this I felt it started to dry up a bit, but was by no means less tasty.

We hope you like it, enjoy!

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