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Photo by Noel Barnhurst

Cheddar, Gruyère, and Brie help push this over the top. Use local, artisan-style cheeses, if you can.


8 servings

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 pound penne pasta
8 teaspoons whipping cream (if making 1 day ahead)

Step 1

Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Step 2

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs; toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Step 3

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. Divide among eight 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with foil; chill. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon cream. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle partially baked chilled or just assembled cups with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.

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  • This recipe is a family favorite. I do not own ramekins, so I bake it in a large casserole dish. Turns out perfect every time.

    • marcianuge

    • Detroit, Michigan

    • 12/14/2014

  • So I read the reviews first and took peoples advice (add more cheese, less nutmeg, more spices, salt, ect...) STILL TERRIBLE!!! I used smoked cheeses thinking that'll help had more flavor, I used dry mustard, white/black pepper, salt, seasoning salt, thyme, nutmeg, paprika, garlic powder, Parmesan (I tasted the mixture first it was excellent) But still the mac n cheese was bland and flavorless. Definitely a waste of money and time. Very disappointed!!

    • cheezaddict

    • Lansing, MI

    • 10/16/2013

  • I wish I had read the reviews before making this recipe. It definitely needs salt and I agree with reducing the amount of nutmeg. It was not very cheesy tasting either. I will look for a better recipe next time.

    • arnoldsl

    • Commerce Township, MI

    • 9/21/2013

  • Skip the nutmeg. Don't forget the buttered breadcrumbs. This is a great recipe for a ski house crew. I've also made it and frozen it for family members. It's one of those great dishes that sometimes even tastes better as leftovers.

    • sarabistro

    • san francisco, ca

    • 7/28/2012

  • This is a great recipe but you'll need a few adjustments. Follow the original methodology of the recipe but change the ingredients to the following. It's amazing! "1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère "1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar "1 1/2 cups smoked mozzarella "5 tablespoons salted butter, divided "1/4 cup all purpose flour "2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves "4 cups whole milk "1 cup panko breadcrumbs "1 pound penne pasta "1 tsp kosher salt "2 tsp of mustard powder (optional) "1 tsp smoked paprika "1/4 tsp cayenne (heaping tsp) "1 tsp black or white pepper

    • KitchenConfidiant

    • Wisconsin

    • 12/5/2011

  • I made this recipe for a dinner party because it is part of a menu featuring my go-to, "always a hit" beef tenderloin recipe. So I figured this would be equally great. Unfortunately I did not read the reviews prior to making it, or else I wouldn't have tried it. When I tasted the cheese sauce, it struck me that it was totally insipid. Upon reviewing the ingredients, I realized that other than nutmeg, this recipe features absolutely no spices. Not even salt. Even when using top of the line cheese, you can not expect it to impart enough taste to season 1 lb. of pasta on its own. I added salt, white and black pepper, cayenne, dried parsley and a pinch of ground mustard. Although the finish product was very good, this would have been a disaster (and total waste of $$$ cheese) had I not added salt, herbs and spices. I give this 1 fork because I am rating the original recipe, not the modifications. Although the finish product was tasty, I will not make this again.

    • Anonymous

    • 11/19/2011

  • Made this recipe to the letter, used President brand Brie, Emmi Swiss Gruyere, Cabot extra sharp cheddar. I didn't add salt, though we salted at the table. My husband really liked it, and I say, what's not to like? The toasted buttered crumbs complement the cheeses very nicely. I'll definitely be making this again.

    • Anonymous

    • CNY

    • 9/11/2011

  • I love this recipe for how creamy it is and how easy it is to make and vary. I always get rave reviews. So use this recipe for the technique but modify it to your tastes. Definitely add salt, pepper and increase the cheese. I've added chipotle in adobo sauce and other seasonings to kick up the flavors a bit. I also use buttered panko bread crumbs for a delicate crispy topping and pretty appearance.

    • Foodie_from_Florida

    • 7/14/2011

  • Salt! For all those who are claiming it's bland, it needs salt! I always add salt to mac and cheese recipes if they don't call for it (all that pasta soaks up a good bit flavor, and you need to salt to accentuate the cheesy goodness). I added 1.25 teaspoons which was perfect for my taste. I left out the nutmeg and used 2 teaspoons of mustard powder instead. I also added about 1 teaspoon of paprika, a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, and a few grinds of black pepper. For the cheese, I chose: 1.5 cups pepper jack, 1.5 fontinella, and 1.5 cups of the brie. This batch of mac and cheese has been one of the best I've made (been on the hunt for the perfect recipe). I will definitely make this again!

    • Anonymous

    • Utah

    • 3/3/2011

  • Ok here is how you make this more delish! More brie more cheddar! Also I do add bacon to recipe. I cook enough strips to get the required amount of fat and use that instead butter in order to make the rue. Makes a much more creamier base. Then I chop up the bacon and use it as a topping along with the bread crumbs. Another important fix, CUT DOWN ON THE NUTMEG! I only use 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. I found that the original requested amount was overwhelming the flavor. Give it a 2nd try!

    • BSULover

    • Boise, ID

    • 1/27/2011

  • a lot of time for not a lot of flavor. maybe some bacon added would help? the cheese flavors disappeared. okay but won't make again.

    • Anonymous

    • washington dc

    • 1/24/2010

  • Yum! I increased the ratio of cheese to roux by 1/2 and used a smoked english cheddar and a smoked raclette and the pasta I used was radiatore. I went without breadcrumbs...delish! The smoked cheeses gave it a great smell and taste. Smoky!

    • vikingdandy

    • Brooklyn, NY

    • 12/2/2009

  • The cheese combo was indeed bland but I made the following changes/substitutions and it worked well - overall the recipe is easy and delicious. I halved the recipe. I didn't have thyme so put chives in instead. I added a teaspoon of cayenne with the nutmeg. Instead of individual ramekins, I baked the entire thing in a gratin dish. The results were elegant enough for a dinner party and quick and delicious enough for a weeknight family dinner.

    • lnazareth

    • Houston, TX

    • 7/18/2009

  • This recipie was ok.. I think I was lookng for more cheddar cheese flavors and less of the bread crust.

    • Beckiesworld

    • Sun Valley, CA

    • 4/21/2009

  • For those of you who found this bland and boring and tasteless, try this version: 2 cups shredded mozzerella, 2 cups mild cheddar, one container rindless brie, one jar of your favorite alfredo sauce, one small brick of velveeta and 3 mini baby bels (yes this can get a tad expensive). Use your favorite pasta, I like penne rigate or large (casserole) elbows best for this recipe. And skip the tasteless bread crumbs. Keep the rest of the recipe the same, but fyi you don't have to use whole milk, any milk will do. This extended version is really a cheesemonger's dream!

    • Anonymous

    • Upstate NY

    • 4/7/2009

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