Mac with Cheddar, Gruyere & Blue Cheese

Funny, I was running on a treadmill when this wonderful gut-bomb of a recipe came into my life. Naturally, I was watching The Barefoot Contessa and she was planning a romantic weekend with Jeffrey, prepping the meal ahead so they could spend the day at Sag Harbor and have a montage of Ina laughing (what a laugh!) while Jeffery awkwardly asks, as if it’s spontaneous, “How are you going to make dinner tonight if we’ve been running around all day?” Ina winks at the camera because we know, like she knows, that the mac and cheese is already made. It’s in the refrigerator next to the lemon curd for the lemon tart. Jeffery has no idea what’s coming and the whole thing is so riveting, I’ve gone three miles and don’t want to stop. Such is the power of watching Ina at the gym.

The mac Ina makes in that episode is so compelling–three cheeses: Cheddar, Gruyere and Roquefort–I immediately moved it to the top of my personal “MUST MAKE” list that I keep in my head. On Friday, I was hosting a dinner and a screening of our friend Luke’s favorite movie, Joe vs. The Volcano…this would be a perfect opportunity to cook up Ina’s mac.


Only problem: Ina’s mac recipe on Food Network’s site only serves 2. Would I just triple it and make that work? I thought about it but that made me nervous. Which is when I turned to the Addictive Mac and Cheese from The New York Times. That recipe has 26 ounces of cheese; Ina’s, if tripled, would have 27. So I could use the NYT recipe as a base and then add an Ina amount of cheese.


Ina specifies Roquefort but that got too expensive. I ended up using Maytag blue which offered more cheese for the dollar, though the cheddar and Gruyere added up quite a bit. Tripling an Ina recipe is a pricy endeavor.


Once you have your cheese grated, though, it’s really just a question of making a white sauce (with butter, flour, and warm milk) and flavoring it with nutmeg, cayenne and black pepper. Then you add all your cheese a little at a time…


…and cook your pasta (I used cavatappi, like Ina, which is one of my favorite pastas) just until very al dente, stir it into the sauce and pour it into a buttered pan, topping it all with basil breadcrumbs.


At that point you can cover it and refrigerate for your day in Sag Harbor. When you’re ready to eat, pop it into a 400 degree oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. When your friends come over for Joe vs. The Volcano, serve it up with a green salad (I made a mustard bottle vinaigrette) and a bold red wine and you’re all set. Look at this happy crowd.


And look at this blurry plate.


Going to the gym may not have given me six-pack abs, but it has given me this killer mac and cheese recipe, contributing to my one giant ab aka my belly. Ina is the best personal trainer of all time.

Recipe: Mac with Cheddar, Gruyere and Blue Cheese

Summary: A mash-up of Ina’s recipe with a recipe from the NYT.


  • 6 slices white bread, crusts removed cut into large cubes
  • 6 to 7 fresh basil leaves cut into strips
  • Salt
  • 5 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter (plus more for buttering the pan)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • About 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • About 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • About 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 9 ounces Cheddar cheese
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese (you can do 9 of Gruyere and 12 of Cheddar if that’s cheaper)
  • 6 ounces blue cheese (Roquefort, if you can afford it; I used Maytag blue)
  • 1 1/2 pounds cavatappi (about a bag and a half)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Butter a 9 X 13 pan with softened butter (about a tablespoon). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
  2. In a food processor, add the bread and the basil and a pinch of salt and pulse until you have green-flecked bread crumbs. Set aside.
  3. Now make your white sauce. In one pan, heat your milk until bubbles form around the edge. Meanwhile, in a large, wide skillet, melt your butter; as it begins to foam, add the flour and stir together, cooking for about a minute, to get rid of that raw flour flavor. Now carefully whisk in the warm milk, keeping the heat on medium, until all of the milk is incorporated. Cook for several minutes, whisking all the while, until the sauce is nice and thick. Turn off the heat. At that point, add the nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper to taste; then add your cheese, handful by handful, whisking all the while and tasting at the end for salt, pepper, etc. It should taste like heaven.
  4. Cook your cavatappi in the salted water a minute or two less than the package instructions; it should taste very chewy, not at all soft. Drain and stir into the white sauce. Pour the mixture into your baking pan, top with the breadcrumbs and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let it cool for 5 minutes and serve it up with a salad.

Preparation time: 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

18 thoughts on “Mac with Cheddar, Gruyere & Blue Cheese”

  1. Annie Bulloch

    I’ve made Ina’s Grown-Up Mac & Cheese recipe several times, and always scaled it up for a crowd (4-5 times the original recipe). The results are fabulous.

  2. My favourite one of Ina’s is the Conchiglie al Forno – with mushrooms and radicchio! The radicchio is a great contrast to the heavy cheeses.

  3. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one tuned in to Ina and the Food Network while running on the treadmill (where else will I get inspiration for the actual running? haha). This looks great. And yes, any Ina recipe is pricey as is – tripling it is even more expensive!

  4. I’m always completely disappointed by mac and cheese recipes. I read all the right words about luscious, creamy sauces and I get my hopes up that this time it will be different. In the end it’s always just a big casserole dish full of lies– dry, greasy macaroni-shaped lies– with little curdled bits of what was once either cheese or milk and it’s totally covered in sandy, dry crumbs. Just what a big ol’ bowl of greasy-dry macaroni needs, right? Sadly, this one (no matter how expensive,) is no different. I even went to your Flickr page to see if I could spot just one drop of sauce in even one photo of the finished product. Sadly, there was not a single droplet to be found. Color me disillusioned by recipes for mac and cheese.

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Hi Toni,
      I actually know what you mean and I often feel that way (especially when I spend a lot of money). If you like a saucy mac and cheese, this is not the recipe for you. If, however, you like a pungent/potent/powerful mac and cheese give this a try. The blue cheese really gives it a great kick.

    2. I’ve got a recipe for Toni to try if cream is what she is after — It’s something like a baked alfredo. Absolutely unheatlhy, but I make it once a year. Key to this recipe: there is no bechamel and no bread crumbs. I like to halve the recipe and cook in a small casserole; you could just use a safe-to-bake mixing bowl really. In halved form: Cook a half pound of penne/macaroni/cavatappi to al dente, then toss into a bowl with a few ounces of chopped up prosciutto. Bacon or pancetta work, but I prefer to pre cook them and render away some of the excess fat; going with prosciutto results in no extra cooking. At the same time, in a separate small pot, bring 10 oz of cream to a simmer. Incorporate 2 oz of parmesan (or in my case, 3 oz), either straight in to the cream or on to the cooked noodles because that is where the cream is about to go. The recipe says to incorporate the cheese into the cream before bringing it to a simmer, but all too often the cheese sinks and turns to glue on the bottom of the sauce pan. Pop the sauced noodles into a 375 oven — don’t do a full 15 minutes, just go 10, especially if you’re halving the recipe. Stir up the noodles one more time and sprinkle with another handful of parmesan and broil a few minutes until it gets a pleasantly freckled/singed top. —- There is no bechamel to try out, and if you’ve used a bit too much cream like i’ve done, you’ve got more insurance that you won’t reduce the sauce out of existence. You go light on the cooking, just bringing the cream to a simmer before adding, and then giving it 10 minutes in the oven to take on some of the starch from the noodles to help thicken. There are no bread crumbs and you have the option of going light on the broiling stage. If you want a last bit of insurance, you can cover the baking dish during the 10 minutes of bake time. If it is -too- loose and creamy at the end, you can put it at the bottom of the oven (away from the still hot broiler) for a few, but it will also thicken as it cools. It would probably be easiest to let it cool a bit and then reheat, due to the way it will let the starch gel and set. If you’ve accidentally over cooked it a bit and it seems a little too dry, you can stir in a few tablespoons of uncooked cream when you serve it. If you’ve -really- over cooked it, and the noodles are just oily from the cream separating, well.. All is lost. So don’t do that.

    3. Try Heston Blumenthal’s cheese sauce recipe (youtube) – he tosses the cheese in cornstarch first and doesn’t stir it in, just let’s it melt, which does something sciencey that keeps it from separating and gives you velveeta like creaminess.

  5. Dear God. Does it get any more decadent? Wow.
    I have a meatloaf recipe to end all meatloaf recipes for you. I know, I know. People tend to say things like that. But I mean it. If it doesn’t prove to WOW you I’ll send you a check for the ingredients. Meanwhile how do I send you the recipe?

  6. Rachel Lester

    Ah ha! I spot a contradiction, Mr Roberts! As an avid reader of your blog, I don’t forget these things. Salad with entrĂ©e? : ) I refer to this post that you wrote in February: where you say that ‘Salad needs to be served on a separate, preferably cold, plate. Keep it away from your dinner’!

    Also, just wanted to add that ‘Macaroni cheese’ as we call it in the UK, is also greatly enhanced by a glass of white wine or vermouth (I use vermouth) and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (added when you are thickening up the sauce). The addition of the wine takes away that school milk pudding flavour. It makes it more like fondue, which reminds me I prefer to use a mixture of Cheddar, Gruyere (or Emmenthal) and parmesan as cheese. I also omit the breadcrumbs and top with grated Cheddar and parmesan. : )

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Good eye, Rachel Lester. Funny enough I brought up that old post when I served this dinner saying, “I’m breaking my own rule.” It’s because the bright acidic salad goes really well with the creamy, gooey mac and cheese. The defense rests.

  7. I love Ina, she has great, easy to follow recipes and that recipe sounds great, but that laugh…. by the end of each episode I am about ready to scream, I am so sick of the laugh (is it just me?) guess what Ina, everything! is not funny!

  8. in my country, people hardly use chese so i find it is very difficult to buy the chese. can you tell me other ingredient replace for chese?

  9. Lauren Campbell

    I have made mac and cheese with a mostly Castello Blue Cheese sauce, but I have never just mixed blue cheese into a regular mac recipe (especially messing with Ina’s!!) Do you think it would usually work out? I like adding blue cheese for a little kick

  10. Deana Aulisio Cavan

    I told my husband, I have a craving for homemade mac and cheese tonight (I’m pregnant). He suggested, blue, gruyere, and cheddar cheeses. I found this recipe. We nailed it! Best I’ve ever eaten. THANK YOU!

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