Smoky Mac & Cheese

Smoky mac and cheese served in an orange mini dutch oven.
Recipe Source: 
I Heart Cheese by Mihaela Metaxa-Albu ($19.99, Page Street Publishing Co., 2020) Photo credit:


  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 34 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 12 cups (600 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups smoked Cheddar, shredded
  • 14 cup breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
  • 14 tsp garlic powder
  • 12 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb mini penne pasta (gluten-free if needed)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons (28 g) of the butter. Add the flour and stir until the mixture turns golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the paprika and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a gentle boil and then immediately lower the heat. Simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens.
  4. Once the sauce has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon, stir in the cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside.
  5. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon (14 g) of butter. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, according to the package directions (see Tips below). Drain well. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss well to coat.
  7. Divide among six 1 14-cup (300-ml) ramekins or oven dishes. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Alternatively, you can use a 9 x 13–inch baking dish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until bubbly and golden.


Give standard mac and cheese an upgrade! This wonderfully smoky, uber-cheesy mac and cheese makes itself at home with any barbecued meat.

Smoked Cheddar gives lusciously creamy cheese sauce a bold flavor, which is further enhanced by the smoked paprika.

Fold the sauce with bite-size, al dente penne pasta and top with freshly toasted, seasoned breadcrumbs for a delicious crunch.


  • Undercook the pasta! If the package says 6 to 8 minutes for al dente, go for 5 to 6 minutes. This way, when baked with the sauce it won’t become overcooked and mushy.
  • Make sure to use a gluten-free flour blend with tapioca or cornstarch, as this helps thicken your sauce better than regular flour.


Mihaela Metaxa-Albu

Mihaela Metaxa-Albu is the creator of the website She is also the founder and creative director of, a food photography company. Mihaela is the former pastry chef of the illustrious restaurant Zuma London. She currently lives in London.