Whoever said Mac and Cheese belonged on kid’s menus was clearly wrong. Our Creamy, Baked Mac and Cheese for Adults uses “adult” ingredients like pancetta, thyme, shallots, white wine and a three cheese blend of goat’s brie, cheddar and soft unripened chèvre.
Whenever we go out to eat and there’s menu options for kids, I always peruse the little plates of deliciousness. I love the classic versions of favourite eats that have become staples for little ones, and while I secretly wish I could order from this junior section, I often wonder why adult versions of these dishes don’t exist on the adult menu.
You know the dishes I’m talking about: chicken fingers and fries, mozzarella sticks and the classic Macaroni and Cheese. Inspired by the kid’s menu, our Creamy, Baked Mac and Cheese is made for adults, using adult flavours and ingredients like pancetta, thyme, shallots, white wine and a three cheese blend of goat’s brie, cheddar and chevre.
What Makes this Adult Mac n' Cheese?
Swapping out orange cheddar for a selection of goat cheese adds dimension, tanginess and texture, making our Creamy, Baked Mac and Cheese for Adults, well creamy. A mac and cheese not known for it’s stringiness, but it’s rich, ooey, and elegant flavour, the additional adult ingredients white wine, shallots, chilis and thyme, compliments the goat cheese and truly makes this a pasta not found on the kid’s menu.
What we love about this dish is the adult ingredients coming to life in a simple favourite. The pancetta adds a subtle and less smokey undertone, the delicateness of the shallot adds sweetness and the thyme brings it together for a complimenting dish tied up brightly with the white wine.
Taking a notch up from a classic homemade macaroni and cheese, don’t confuse this elegant dish for one that isn’t a classic. Perfect for large gatherings like family dinners, holiday’s and even Super Bowl, or quiet intimate dinners meant to impress like date night, Valentine’s Day or hosting your in-laws, this Creamy, Baked Mac and Cheese involves simple preparation, accessible ingredients and a whole pot of deliciousness waiting for you in every bite.
HOW TO MAKE A CREAMY, BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
Like with most recipes, preparation is key to making a successful homemade macaroni and cheese. Cut the pancetta, slice the shallots, chop the thyme and grate the cheese. The brie and be cut into small wedges, leaving the rind on, which will just melt into this super creamy mac and cheese. Once your ingredients are prepped, preheat your oven at 400° F. Fill a large pot with water adding a tablespoon of salt to the water. Set the pot on the stove to boil. In a small saucepan, heat the milk on medium heat. You need the milk to be hot, but not boiling, when you start making the cheese sauce.
Add the diced pancetta into a French oven, then place on your stove set to medium-high heat. Cook the pancetta for 7-8 minutes until it begins to crisp, then add the shallots and sauté for an additional 3-4 minutes, until softened and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl to use later, then return the French oven to your stove. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add the bread crumbs and thyme, then cook for 3-43 minutes, again until golden and transfer to its own small bowl. Once this is done, you can begin cooking the macaroni.
MAKE A ROUX
The first key to a super creamy mac and cheese is making a roux. A roux is a sauce consisting of butter, flour, and milk which functions as the base for our cheese sauce. Start by melting a half cup of butter in your French oven at medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until it turns pasty and golden. Slowly pour in the milk, while whisking, and mix until smooth and creamy.
TURN THE ROUX INTO CHEESE SAUCE
Add all the cheese to the roux. Stir until the cheese has melted. There may be a few bits of rind remaining, but don’t worry, they will melt when the mac and cheese is baked in the oven. Once the cheese has melted add the white wine and give it a stir. Then finally stir in the pancetta and shallots, thyme, chilis, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
PUT IT TOGETHER AND BAKE
Drain the cooked macaroni and pour directly into the cheese sauce. Give it a good stir so the macaroni is evenly coated. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and bake in the oven, uncovered for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with an additional hit of chilis and thyme, if desired.
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Our Favourite Essential Cooking Tools and Props from the recipe
- John Boos Maple Cutting Board
- Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven
- Wood Handle Cheese Grater
- Global Chef's Knife
- Le Creuset Spatula
Essential Ingredients for our Oven-Baked Fries
- Dry Macaroni
- All-purpose Flour
- Simply Organic Black Peppercorns
- Simply Organics Red Pepper Flakes
- Maldon Sea Salt
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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese for Adults
- 5 oz pancetta small diced
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup coarse bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1 lb macaroni pasta
- 4 cups milk
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 7 oz cheddar cheese
- 7 oz brie cheese
- 7 oz goat cheese (chèvre)
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Fill a large pot with water, add one tablespoon of salt, and place on high heat. In a small saucepan, pour in the milk and set heat to medium. Ensure the milk gets hot, but doesn’t boil.
- Add the diced pancetta into a French oven (minimum 4 litre capacity). Heat the pan to medium high, and cook the pancetta, stirring every minute or so, until it’s just starting to crisp up, about 7-8 minutes. Add the thinly sliced shallots, and sauté an additional 3-4 minutes, until softened and browned. Transfer to a bowl.
- Place the French oven back onto the heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the breadcrumbs and thyme and fry until golden brown, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
- Add the macaroni to the boiling water. Cook as per the package instructions.
- Meanwhile, begin making a roux by melting a ½ cup butter in the French oven, on medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine and continue stirring until the roux begins to become golden, about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the hot milk and whisk until it becomes a creamy sauce free of any lumps. Add all the cheese and stir until melted. Pour in the white wine, stir, then add the cooked pancetta and onions, 1 tablespoon of thyme, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- Add the cooked macaroni directly into the cheese sauce and mix well to get an even creaminess throughout the macaroni. Top with bread crumbs, then place the French oven in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
- Allow to cool for just a few minutes before serving.
- This can be easily divided for date-night, or multiplied for family gatherings
- This is a dish best served the day of. It still tastes good the next day, but it won’t be as creamy.
- You can leave the rind on the brie. It may take a little longer to melt and if there are a few chunks left, don’t worry, any leftover bits will melt when baking in the oven.
- We’ve used a Le Creuset French Oven. If you don’t have a French oven, you can use a deep skillet for the stovetop, and a casserole dish for the oven.