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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: 674 kcal

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

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  • 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. Hey Shayla,
      Sorry I don’t own a smoker so I am unsure of the results. I hope you love the recipe, let me know how it turns out! xTieghan

  1. 5 stars
    This was yummy – smooth and creamy! I used farfalle because I didn’t have macaroni, and halved the recipe. It turned out great and my husband said it’s the best Mac ‘n cheese he’s ever had 😊

    1. Hey Janet,
      I am so glad this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for giving it a try! Have the best week. xTieghan

    1. Hey Maria,
      Sure, if you do not want to bake this, that would be totally fine. I hope you love the recipe. Let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  2. This recipe is delicious!! The ritz cracker crumbs toasted with garlic makes the dish!! Will definitely make this again. Thanks Tieghan for another great recipe!

  3. Hiya! For making this the day before, would you recommend putting everything together and baking it then refrigerating and re-heating/baking the next day? Or putting all the ingredients together in the fridge and then just baking the day of? Looking forward to this!

    1. Hey Emily,
      I would make up until baking, cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to bake. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions. Happy Holidays! xTieghan

    1. Hey Victoria,
      Yes that should work. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions. Happy Thanksgiving! xTieghan

  4. This looks delicious! Going to make it for Thanksgiving this year. I’m wondering if I can substitute shells instead of elbow macaroni without any issues? And would it still be 1 pound?

    Thank you!!

  5. Hi!
    I’m planning on making this for thanksgiving but don’t want to take up valuable oven space. Is there a way to make this recipe in the crockpot?
    Thank you! Love all of your recipes!

    1. Hey Jennifer,
      I have never made mac and cheese in the crockpot, so I don’t feel comfortable advising you how to do so. I’d have to re-work the recipe and cooking times. So sorry I could not help more. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

  6. 3 stars
    Ritz topping was exceptional! But we found the recipe to be too cheesy. So cheesy we were left with sore tummies afterwards. I’d make again, but would not add all that cheese. Thank you.

  7. 5 stars
    This looks amazing would really like to make this mac and cheese for thanksgiving. Is there a way that I could do a “make ahead” version with out the noodles getting soggy? T

    1. Hey Marissa,
      I would follow the recipe up until the baking point, place in the fridge covered, and then bake when you are ready to serve. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  8. Hi! Love all your recipes so far! We’ve been asked to make Mac & Cheese for Thanksgiving this year and I immediately looked up one here – however I’ve just learned that we need to make enough for 40 people and be able to transport about an hour away (AHH!). Any advice on serving adjustments/keeping warm in transit?

    1. Hey Lauren!! This is a good recipe for Thanksgiving!

      You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed everyone. For transporting, do you have any food warmed? Those work really well to keep warm dishes warmed while traveling. Linked my favorite below! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    Hands down the best macaroni and cheese that I have ever made and ate! I made it for my family and they requested it again just a few days later! Thank you for this 🙂

  10. 5 stars
    The flavor in this was excellent but almost a little TOO cheesy for me! I will definitely make again but with a little less cheese. Loved the garlic crackers on top!