Creamy Smoked Mac and Cheese has a twist on the familiar favorite. Everyone loves this ridiculously good smoked mac and cheese! And guess what, you do not need a smoker to make this cheesy homemade mac and cheese, although I've included smoker directions. Plus you can easily adapt this to be gluten-free, yes, gluten-free smoked mac and cheese!
Boil pasta | Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt to boiling water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook for about a minute less than the package directions suggest. Drain pasta, then return to pan and toss with a little olive oil to keep from sticking.
Meanwhile, grate and measure the cheese; tossing into a large bowl mixing to combine.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Browning butter: once butter is melted, reduce heat to medium-low and watch closely, butter will pop and crackle, then will get quiet and foam up, swirl the pan on occasion while it’s in the quiet stage and you should start to see some brown flecks blooming in the middle, swirl until butter smells nutty and is nicely browned, remove from heat.
Return butter to medium-low heat and stir in flour (or GF flour), whisking to combine, it might get a little grainy. Cook stirring for about a 1 minute. Slowly pour in 2 cups of half and half, whisking constantly, until combined and smooth. Slowly pour remaining milk and cream into mixture, whisking until smooth.
Continue to whisk over medium heat, whisking often, until very thick. Remove from heat and stir in 1 ½ cups of cheese, stirring until melted and combined. Stir in spices and liquid smoke, then add another 1 ½ cups of cheese, stirring until melted and combined. If mixture is too thick, thin with a bit of milk.
Using the same large pot you cooked the pasta in, combine drained pasta with cheese sauce, stirring gently, until fully combined. Pour half the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish, topping with 1 ½ cups of grated cheese, then pour and smooth on the remaining mac and cheese.
Sprinkle with the remaining 1 ½ cups of cheese, and place in oven for 15 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Serve immediately.
*8 oz block of cheese yields slightly over 2 cups of shredded cheese.
Make as directed, without baking. Once completely cooled, cover tightly with foil, refrigerating it for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, remove dish from fridge, 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed, but for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and golden.
Freezing Mac and Cheese
Cool completely before freezing and if desired, place into individual portion sized containers for easier reheating. Wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap, then foil and I usually place in a freezer baggie. Be sure to only cook your pasta to al dente, then you will avoid some of the mushiness. To thaw, place in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge for 30 minutes before popping in a 325 degree oven for 20-35 minutes. If it looks like it’s drying out, add a tablespoon of water sprinkled over the top and cover with foil. Will last for 6 months in freeze when properly stored.
Mexican Mac and Cheese | Stir the following into the cheese sauce; 4 oz can green chilies (undrained), 1 taco seasoning, 2-3 tablespoons salsa. BACON Mac & Cheese | Everything is better with bacon right? Cook up 3-4 pieces of your favorite bacon until not quite super crisp; place on top of smoked mac and cheese prior to baking. Barbecue Mac and Cheese | Swirl your favorite barbecue sauce (or make your own) between the layers and drizzle a little on top! Oh my!Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese | Brown up 1 lb of ground beef (turkey or chicken too), ½ a small onion, set aside and add to macaroni and cheese mixture when mixing. Other cheeses may be used! Try these combos:
Smoked Gouda and Smoked Cheddar
Regular Gouda and Sharp Cheddar
Regular Gruyere and Sharp Cheddar
Colby Cheddar and Sharp Cheddar
Bottom line, use the cheeses that you love and have access too! Stop at your local grocery stores cheese shop if you have one and ask for recommendations.
Gluten-Free Smoked Mac and Cheese
Use your favorite smaller gluten-free pasta. Swap out all-purpose flour for a good GF AP flourMake sure if you are purchasing pre-shredded cheeses that they do not have any flour/anti-caking agents in them, besides, the cheeses melt better when shredded from the block.