Smoky Triple Cheese Mac 'N Cheese

Smoky Triple Cheese Mac 'N Cheese

It’s hard to improve on an American classic like mac ’n cheese. But at Traeger, we discovered smoking the sauce before tossing it with the pasta adds a wonderful taste dimension to the casserole. You can make this recipe your own, of course, by adding extra ingredients like diced roasted poblano peppers, grilled corn and/or onions and bacon, or by using pepper Jack in place of one of the other cheeses.

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Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups half and half or whole milk, plus more if needed
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (not low-fat or nonfat), cut into cubes
  • 4 tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, or more to taste (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) corkscrew-shaped pasta or elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella or Gouda or other smoked cheese
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs, preferably panko, tossed with 2 tablespoons melted butter Smoked paprika, for serving

Preparation

Start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). If you have a digital controller, set the temperature to 225 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. If you have a manual controller, leave your unit on Smoke.

Make the sauce: Combine the half and half, cream cheese, 4 tablespoons of chilled butter, dry mustard, hot sauce, if using, and black pepper in a large (12-inch) well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Place the skillet on the grill grate, uncovered, and smoke the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove the sauce from the grill and whisk until fairly smooth. Increase the Traeger temperature to 350 degrees F.

While the sauce smokes, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stovetop. Cook the pasta 1 to 2 minutes less than the package directions call for; the pasta will continue to cook on the grill. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and return to the pot. Toss the cooled pasta with the shredded cheeses. Pour the smoked sauce over the pasta and cheese, stirring gently with a rubber spatula to coat the pasta. If the mixture seems dry, add more half and half or milk.

Rinse out the cast iron skillet and dry thoroughly. Tip the macaroni and cheese into the clean skillet or a buttered 3-quart baking dish or casserole, smoothing the top. Sprinkle evenly with the bread crumb mixture. Place on the grill grate.

Bake the macaroni and cheese until it is bubbling and the top is lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Dust lightly with the paprika. Carefully transfer the skillet to a trivet or hot pad before serving.