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Sharing my favorite family dinner today, The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese from The Half Baked Harvest Cookbook.

Cheese Makers Mac and Cheese | @hbharvest

Cheese Makers Mac and Cheese | @hbharvest

The Cheese-Maker’s Mac and Cheese

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings
Calories Per Serving: 766 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups 2% or whole milk
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • cups crushed Ritz Crackers (about 1 sleeve)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • cups shredded fontina cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Havarti cheese
  • 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves, for topping


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
    2. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 minute, stirring once to avoid burning—it will bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk and 2 cups of water, then stir in the macaroni. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir frequently until the macaroni is just al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the crushed crackers and toss to coat. Toast the crumbs until browned, stirring frequently to avoid burning, for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
    4. When the macaroni is al dente, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream cheese, cheddar, fontina, Havarti, Gouda, and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Stir until the cheeses have fully melted. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
    5. Evenly sprinkle the toasted cracker crumbs over the mac and cheese and place the baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes (yeah, right). Garnish with fresh basil. Dig in!
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    1. Hi Rachel,
      Sure, that should work nicely for you! Please let me know if you give this recipe a try, I hope you love it! xT

  1. One of the best mac’n’cheese recipes i’ve ever had. Love the one pot boil. When it says stir frequently, it means STIR FREQUENTLY.

  2. Hi Tieghan! I want to make this in advance and freeze it for easy prep. What do you suggest for thawing/reheating in the oven for the best consistency? Is there a way to assemble and freeze (without baking first) and then bake after thawing? Help an amateur party-planner out! 🙂

    1. Hi Vanessa! I haven’t ever frozen this recipe before so I’m really not sure! I would maybe just assemble everything and then freeze covered in foil, then when you’re ready to bake just bake it covered and then uncovered for the last little bit! xT

      1. 3 stars
        Do you drain the water out before adding in cheese, after step 2? Or does the cheese go in with the macaroni and water?

  3. 3 stars
    UGH, i SO wanted to LOOOVE this recipe – literally love everything you create…
    however I just somehow can’t keep ANY homemade MAC N CHEESE not wind up dry/too thick… it always has that somewhat a gritty texture as soon as it’s on the plate for longer than 1 minute… I shred all my own cheese (never buy pre-shredded) and yet it still doesn’t come out that ooey and gooey cheeseyness that everyone craves when making MAC… HELP! What could I possibly be doing wrong? The taste was a 7/10 for me, could have gone with a little more flavor in my opinion – I wonder if par boiling the noodles before putting them in the pan to finish off and omit baking would do the trick.

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for trying this recipe and sharing your feedback! What material pan are you using? I would try to switch that up and then maybe just add some more milk or reduce your bake time. I hope this helps! xx

  4. I made this a few months back… This is by far my favorite mac n cheese recipe EVER! It was also very easy! I am making it again this weekend because someone ate all the left overs and I have been craving it since…. Thank you for this recipe.

    1. Hi there,
      Happy Wednesday!! 🌸🌤️ I appreciate you making this recipe and sharing your review, so glad it turned out well for you! xT

  5. Hi! I’m planning to make this recipe out of my beautiful new Half Baked Harvest cookbook for Easter… for the first time, no less! Anyhoo, I want to put it together in the morning and bake it around 4pm or so. Should I do anything differently to ensure delightful creaminess?

    1. Hi Emily,
      Awesome!! No adjustments needed, that should be just fine for you to do! I hope you love this recipe:) xx

  6. Hi Tieghan!

    Happy holidays! If I were to make this ahead of time could I reheat in the slow cooker? Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Cailey,
      Sure, that should work well for you, you may need to add some milk or cream so it doesn’t dry out:) I hope you love the recipe! xT

  7. 5 stars
    Hey!! Love this recipe… would I be able to make it without baking it to keep it extra creamy that way? Should I keep the water in the recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hey Nancy,
      Happy Holidays!! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and appreciate you giving it a try! Sure, you could skip baking it, yes you need to fully complete step 2 with the water so the noodles can cook.🎄❄️

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Sorry, what are you wanting it to help with? You should be able to follow this recipe as written without any issues! Let me know if I can help in any other way! xx

  8. HI, This looks delicious! Do you think this would work for Lobster Mac/cheese…as in, I want to add lobster to make it a “fancy” side dish. Any tips to make this work would be great! From a huge fan, Kathy

    1. Hey Kathy,
      Yes, that will work well for you! Please let me know if you have any other questions, I hope you love this recipe! xT