Divine Mac n' Cheese from The Cowgirl Creamery

April 19, 2014

Cowgirl Creamery, located in San Francisco, California, is known for their handcrafted artisan cheeses.  In their first cookbook, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks Sue Conley and Peggy Smith outline how to create a balanced cheese course as well as share recipes for their favorite cheeses.  Mac n' cheese is always a crowd pleaser and the Cowgirls has a phenomenal recipe.  Instead of using a variety of cheeses, this recipe focuses on just using one good quality cheddar.  Selecting one cheese as opposed to many allows the flavor of that particular cheese to really shine.  This is one mac n' cheese you'll want to make over and over again. 

Classic Mac and Cheese
Serves 4

This version is creamy and simple, so the flavor of your cheese comes through. Choose a good sharp Cheddar as a base; you need 16 oz/455 g of cheese plus the Parmesan. You can use all Cheddar or a combination of half Cheddar and half ends and bits. Some folks add parsley or other herbs before baking (as shown in photo). We like to make it without herbs.




2 tbsp

Unsalted butter

2 tbsp

2 tbsp

All-purpose flour

2 tbsp

2 1/2 cups

Whole milk

600 ml

3/4 cup

Heavy cream

180 ml

1 tbsp

Dijon mustard

1 tbsp

1 lb

Grating cheese

455 g

1/4 tsp

Sea salt

1/4 tsp


Freshly ground black pepper


1/4 tsp

Hot sauce

1/4 tsp

12 oz

Pasta (elbow or corkscrew)

340 g

11/2 cups

Panko or fresh bread crumbs

170 g

3 tbsp

Grated Parmesan or other cheese

3 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and butter a 3 qt/2.8-L baking dish. Set a large pot of unsalted water over high heat.

While the water heats, melt the butter in a large saucepan. When the butter has finished foaming, stir in the flour, whisking until the flour takes on a little color, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the milk slowly, while whisking continuously. Return the pan to medium heat. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes) and then take the pan off the heat again; stir in the cream, mustard, and three-fourths of the cheese. Stir in the salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the hot sauce. Set the sauce aside.

Cook the pasta just until al dente. Drain (don’t rinse) and quickly stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, then pour into the prepared pan, scraping all the cheese sauce into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the pasta. Sprinkle the panko over the cheese, and sprinkle the Parmesan on top of that.

Bake until the mixture is bubbling on the edges and showing some golden brown color on top, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

All recipes reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith (Chronicle Books, © 2013). 

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