Macaroni And Cheese Recipe
Not your mother’s macaroni and cheese— unless Mom entered this award-winning recipe for Crab Macaroni Bake.




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February 2007
Last Updated February 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese

Gourmet Macaroni And Cheese Recipes

Award-Winning Mac & Cheese So Good, You’ll Want To Throw A Party To Make Each Recipe


If you love baked macaroni and cheese, you’re in luck. So many cooks across America whip up a mean homemade mac and cheese, that, beginning in 2005, Tillamook County Creamery Association has held an annual Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Contest. We have found some of the best macaroni and cheese recipes ever from among the winners. We’ve picked some of our favorites for you from the past two years’ winners, below.

You can have your mac and cheese classic-style; with crab, lobster or truffles; chicken Florentine style or Tex-Mex; or with apples (what more logical complement to cheddar cheese?). We couldn’t wait to try them all, so we came up with a strategy: since Tillamook is a  cooperative, we held a cooperative dinner party for eight. Each person made one recipe, the group of mac and cheese-lovers got to try all of them at once, and we went home knowing which were our personal favorites—i.e., the ones we couldn’t wait to make ASAP. It was fun, it saved time, and as far as all that rich macaroni and cheese is concerned, you only need to eat a tablespoon or two of each dish. Make a big salad with a good vinaigrette, don’t serve bread, and have a plain fruit salad or sorbet for dessert. Use the occasion to try different white wines and craft beers. The recipes vary so much that different wines—dry, fruity, spicy—will complement different dishes.

You can find more recipes on the Association’s website, as well as information on the next competition. Tillamook cheeses are made by the Tillamook County Creamery Association, a dairy cooperative in Tillamook, Oregon. You’re welcome to visit any day of the year, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

The menu (in alphabetical order):

Apple, White Cheddar and Gruyère Macaroni & Cheese

Tim Hutchinson was the Seattle Regional 2006 Grand Prize Winner, with his inspired idea of adding apples to mac and cheese. The recipe serves 8+.


  • 6 slices French bread

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1¼ cups heavy cream

  • ¾ cups apple cider

  • 6 tablespoons flour

  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon salt

Apple Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Apples and cheese: a perfect match.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3½ cups medium white Cheddar
  • 1 cup gruyère cheese
  • 4 cups medium shell pasta
  • 3-4 quarts water for pasta


  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 13" x 9" or 3-quart casserole dish. Remove crust from bread, cut into ½ " cubes and place in bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Pour melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Put bread cubes into a food processor and process until fine crumbs form. Set bread crumbs aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk, cream and apple cider until hot.
  3. While milk mixture is heating, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbling, add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  4. Pour hot milk mixture slowly into skillet with flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking over medium heat until sauce bubbles and becomes thick.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, mustard, 2½ cups cheddar and ½ cup gruyère. Combine and set aside.
  6. Fill a large saucepan with 3 to 4 quarts of water, add remaining 2 tablespoons salt and bring to boil. Add pasta and cook slightly less than what the package calls for. Pasta should be slightly underdone. Pour pasta into colander and rinse under cold water draining well.
  7. Stir pasta into cheese sauce and transfer to prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1½ cups cheese over pasta and spread bread crumbs on top to cover. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.


Cheesy Pasta and Lobster Bake Mac & Cheese

Anne Jones was the 2005 Grand Prize Winner, taking national honors by combining two of America’s favorite foods: lobster and mac and cheese. The recipe serves 6.


  • 4 tablespoons, plus 2
    tablespoons, plus 1½
    tablespoons, butter

  • 4 tablespoons flour

  • 2 cups half and half

  • 1¾ teaspoons salt

  • ¼ teaspoon ground black

  • 1¼ cups Tillamook Sharp
    Cheddar cheese, shredded

Lobster Macaroni And Cheese
Another wonderful way to enjoy lobster (or is it another wonderful way to enjoy mac and cheese?).
  • 1¼ cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1½ cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
  • ½ cup gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound packaged dry gnocchi-shaped pasta
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 pound lobster meat, picked over and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped green onions, green tops only
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon each paprika, dried basil and dried thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and, with a wire whisk, gradually add the half and half. Cook 3-5 minutes, or until thickened, stirring often. Remove from the heat, and add ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, ½ cup gruyère, garlic, 3⁄4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted and well combined. Cover and let stand.
  2. Fill a large pan with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt.  Add pasta, return to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until just undercooked. Drain water from pasta and return to the pan. Add the béchamel sauce and 2 tablespoons butter; stir until well combined. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine the Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  4. Spray a 3-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place one half of the pasta in the baking dish. Top with half of the mixed cheeses. Top with the other half of the pasta, followed by the remaining mixed cheeses. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the visibly bubbling and hot.
  5. While pasta is baking, combine 1½ tablespoons butter and lobster meat in a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, or until lobster is heated through. Remove from heat; add bread crumbs, green onions, paprika, basil and thyme, and 1 ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss lightly to combine.
  6. Remove the baking dish from the oven and spoon the lobster mixture over the top of the pasta. Spread evenly.

Turn the oven to “Broil” and return the baking dish to the oven. Broil 10-12 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Crab & Macaroni Bake

The 2006 Grand Prize Winner recipe was developed by Elizabeth Guise. It serves 8+.


  • 10 ounces rotini pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic and herb Old Bay seasoning
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
Crab and Macaroni Bake
Love crab? This mac and cheese is for you!
  • 4 ounces medium
    Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 ounces Monterey
    Jack cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red bell
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped
    yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 8 ounces fresh crabmeat
  • 3 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic and herb Old
    Bay seasoning
Cheddar - Tillamook All Tillamook cheeses are naturally aged and are produced with milk from cows that do not receive artificial growth hormones (rBST). 


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Boil pasta in salted water until tender, drain and set aside.
  3. Place slices of bread on baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with seasoning, and bake for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Turn over and bake an additional 5 minutes until golden on both sides. Remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue stirring butter and flour mixture over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until it has a slightly nutty aroma. Pour in milk while whisking and whisk until smooth. Cook while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture thickens. Add salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and Old Bay seasoning. Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and add the grated cheddar and monterey jack cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in peppers, onions, shallots, and cilantro. Stir in pasta and gently fold in crab meat. Spray a large shallow (12" x 1 1/2”) ceramic casserole dish with pan spray. Pour in filling and spread out evenly. Grate toasted bread slices and sprinkle over filling.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around the edge. Serves 8 as an entree with a side salad.


Four Cheese Chicken Florentine Tortellini

Jenny Flake was the 2006 First Runner Up with this creative concept: make macaroni and cheese with tortellini. It serves 8+.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped

  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely

  • 2 cups white mushrooms, thinly

  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped

  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried
    tomatoes, drained and chopped

Chicken Florentine Tortellini
“Macaroni and cheese” dressed up for the fanciest dinner party.
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon roasted garlic seasoning (Spice Hunter brand preferred)
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups white medium cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast (lightly seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add dry tortellini to boiling water and reduce heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until al dente.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, sundried tomatoes and oregano; sauté for 3-4 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
  3. Melt butter in a separate large pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in flour, salt, pepper and roasted garlic seasoning until smooth. Slowly whisk in half and half and milk. Bring to a boil while continuously stirring. Reduce heat, and then simmer for 1 minute. Stir in Tillamook Italian Blend, Vintage White Medium Cheddar, Mozzarella and Smoked Cheddar cheeses until melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in cooked tortellini, sautéed vegetables and chicken breast. Pour tortellini mixture into a greased 3-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and bread crumbs. Toss to coat and sprinkle crumbs and pine nuts over top of tortellini. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crumbs browned.


Kicked-Up Monterey Macaroni and Cheese

Priscilla Yee won the 2005 Bay Area Grand Prize with this sure-to-please recipe. It serves 4.


  • 8 ounces uncooked dry
    radiatore or rotini pasta

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups whole milk

Kicked Up Macaroni and Cheese
Kick it up a notch with artichokes, shrimp and hazelnuts.
  • 1-1⁄4 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1-1⁄4 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cooked small (Bay) shrimp, peeled
  • 1 cup quartered artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1 teaspoon (or to taste) lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large saucepan, cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain.
  2. Spray 2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. In medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons Tillamook butter over medium heat; add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Stir in the flour and salt. Gradually stir in milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in 1 cup Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 1 cup Tillamook Pepper Jack cheese, shrimp, artichoke hearts, dried tomatoes, lemon zest and the cooked pasta. Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle top with remaining 1⁄4 cup of each cheese. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in microwave or saucepan. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle crumbs and hazelnuts over casserole.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are golden brown.


Penne Rigate Mac & Cheese Baked with Truffle Essence

Kudos to Brenden Mesch, who won the 2005 Dallas Regionals with this elegant recipe. Serves 4.


  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 8 ounces penne rigate pasta, dry

  • 1 tablespoon black truffle oil

  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced

  • 3 ounces applewood smoked bacon, minced

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Truffled Macaroni and Cheese
Our editor’s favorite—but truffled macaroni and cheese is her favorite comfort food.
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1-½ cups heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon minced basil

  • ¼ teaspoon minced thyme

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 cups

  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

  • ½ cup pecan quarters

  • 1 cup white smoked extra sharp Cheddar, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bring 1 gallon of water to a rapid boil with the kosher salt in an 8-quart pot. Drop pasta into the water and stir. Boil for 5-6 minutes total. Pasta should be slightly undercooked at this point.  Drain off all water through a colander, sit one minute and toss in a bowl with the black truffle oil. Reserve.
  2. Combine the shallots, bacon, garlic and olive oil in a 4-quart pot and cook slowly for 10 minutes using low heat. Add in the flour, raise heat to medium and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Temper in the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes on low.
  3. Add in the herbs and seasonings. Stir in 3 cups of the Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese until smooth. Add in the truffle-scented pasta and stir until evenly combined.  Divide into individual ramekins and top with the pecans and the shredded Tillamook Vintage White Smoked Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned on top.


Tex-Mex Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Suzy Weaver won the 2006 Pasadena Regionals with this zesty recipe. It serves 8+.


  • 8 ounces uncooked corn pasta large macaroni noodles (found in most organic sections of the grocery store—if unable to find, use regular large elbow macaroni)
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
    (plus extra for buttering baking
  • 1-1/2 cups onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Tex-Mex Mac and Cheese
You don’t have to be Texan to love your mac and cheese Tex-Mex style.
  • 2 teaspoon chipotle flavored hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 tablespoon freshly minced cilantro (stems only)
  • 4 cups Mexican blend cheese


  • 2 cups queso blend cheese
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), chopped
  • Dash of salt

Garnish (optional)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon green onions (light green portion), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, grated


  1. Butter the bottom and sides of a large ceramic or glass-baking dish, 10"x20"x2” deep. Position oven rack to the center position in the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt butter in 4 quart, heavy-duty, non-stick pot over medium low heat. Add onion, garlic and lime zest and sweat over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes: Do not allow this to brown. Add Worcestershire and Tabasco Sauces and cook for 30 seconds, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add cumin and celery salt. Stir in flour and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Whisk in cream until mixture is smooth and bring it up to a low simmer. Add oregano and cilantro. Stirring frequently, cook cream sauce over low heat for 15 minutes. Cream will reduce and sauce will thicken to about 3/4 volume. Stir in Tillamook Mexican Blend Cheese until thoroughly melted.
  3. While sauce is reducing: In a separate large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Cook corn macaroni according to package directions (about 7-8 minutes), until cooked but still a little firm (al dente). Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. This can be done while the cream sauce is reducing.
  4. Carefully stir cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce until combined, adding the 1/2 cup of cooking water to thin the sauce a bit. Very carefully, pour entire hot mixture into baking dish and lightly smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.


  1. Combine butter and chile powder in a microwave-safe dish (large enough to hold dry ingredients); melt butter in microwave on “high” for 30 seconds, or until melted. Stir butter and add panko breadcrumbs, cornmeal, pepitas and salt. Mix together with a fork until crumbs are moist.
  2. Sprinkle a thick layer of the Tillamook Queso Blend Cheese evenly over the top of the dish, and then finish with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake uncovered in the center position of the oven for 30-45 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and the top is a light golden brown.
  3. Blend sour cream with cilantro, green onions and lime zest. Garnish each serving with a dollop of flavored cream cheese.


The Ultimate Comfort Food Macaroni & Cheese

The 2005 Phoenix Regionals produced this Grand Prize Winner, created by Cheryl Hart. It serves 12.


  • 12 tablespoons (1-½ sticks)
    unsalted butter, plus
    more for dish

  • 3 cups (about ½ loaf) good white crusty bread, cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces

  • 4 cups (1 quart) half & half

  • 1 cup milk

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons salt

Ultimate Macaroni And Cheese
If you like a classic mac and cheese with a great cheese blend, try this recipe.

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon ground or whole red pepper flakes, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 cups white Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 ¼ cups romano cheese, shredded
  • 1 pound penne rigate (large macaroni tubes with grooves)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Have half & half and butter at room temperature. Butter and set aside a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Place bread in a medium bowl. In the microwave, melt 4 tablespoons butter and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Pour butter into the bowl with bread and toss. Set bread crumbs aside.
  2. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan (enough to hold 10 cups) over medium heat. When butter melts, add flour. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in milk and add 1-½ teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon red pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and nutmeg. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Stir in 2 cups Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, 1 cup Tillamook Vintage White, 1 cup Tillamook Swiss and 1 cup romano; set cheese sauce aside. Blend the remaining cheese together.
  4. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2-3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is just slightly undercooked. Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well. Add salt and pepper to taste and add 2 tablespoons butter. Stir the cheese sauce into the macaroni.
  5. Pour mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup Tillamook Vintage White Cheddar, ½  cup Tillamook Swiss and ¼ cup romano, add bread crumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes. Serve.


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