Our 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese is a cheesy, comforting side dish. It's loaded with Gouda, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses!
Cheesy pasta is one of our favorite go-to recipes. In fact, we have quite a few mac and cheese recipes on the site already. They pair so well with so many other recipes like Slow Cooker BBQ Beef or Grilled BBQ Chicken Breasts with a side of Slow Cooker Baked Beans.
This 3 cheese mac and cheese recipe makes the perfect holiday dish side! Made with sharp cheddar, gouda, and Monterey jack cheeses this baked macaroni and cheese is sure to impress.
How to Make 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese:
- Begin by cooking the macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Cook just until al dente then drain the water, and set the noodles aside.
- Next, grab a large pan and place it over medium heat. Melt the butter and then sprinkle in the flour. Cook the flour and butter mixture for 2 to 3 minutes to remove any raw flour flavor.
- Pour in the milk, heavy cream, salt, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper.
- Continue to whisk the ingredients together and until they begin to steam. At this point, it's time to add the cheese.
- Slowly start add the shredded cheeses no more than a small handful at a time. Adding too much cheese at once will cause it to sink to the bottom of the pan, stick, and burn. Make sure to whisk as you add the cheese, and don't add more cheese until the previous addition melts.
- Once all the cheese is added, stir in the cooked pasta.
- Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish and transfer the macaroni and cheese to the dish. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. The mac and cheese should bubble around the edges and the cheese on top should melt.
- Serve warm with your favorite main dish!
Three Cheese Mac and Cheese Tips:
- We love the combination of cheddar, gouda, and Monterey cheeses, but feel free to swap any of those out with your favorites. Pepper jack, mozzarella, colby, American, havarti, fontina, parmesan or gruyere make good options.
- Do NOT let the heavy cream and milk mixture come to a boil, if it does your cheese sauce will separate.
- For extra flavor and texture, top this macaroni and cheese with toasted bread crumbs, crumbled bacon, spicy jalapeños, or diced ham.
- The cheese sauce for this recipe looks thin, but it thickness nicely once the starchy noodles get added and it's baked.
Can you freeze baked macaroni and cheese?
This baked macaroni and cheese freezes well. For best results, prepare the mac and cheese in a freezer-safe container or wrap it in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. It should stay fresh about 2 months when properly stored.
Thaw it completely in your fridge before baking at 350°F in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes or until it's hot and bubbly.
Do you have to bake this recipe?
Nope! You sure don't. After adding the cooked noodles to the cheese sauce, this recipe is ready to enjoy. No need to bake. Although, the cheese sauce may be a little on the thin side since it hasn't had time to adequately mix with the starches from the noodles.
Can I use packaged, pre-shredded cheese?
Pre-shredded cheese is so, so easy and convenient, but sadly for this recipe it's a no go. The anti-caking agent on packaged cheese makes the cheese sauce gloppy and thick instead of smooth and creamy. It's best to grate the cheese right off the block.
Baked 3 cheese mac and cheese stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
Reheat by microwaving on half power at 1 minute intervals until warmed through.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
- 16 ounces elbow noodles, uncooked
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded off the block
- 8 ounces gouda cheese, shredded off the block
- 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded off the block
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded off the block (optional for topping while baking)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- Cook the elbow macaroni per the package instructions just until al dente. Drain and set the noodles aside to be used later.16 ounces elbow noodles
- In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter then add the flour. Whisk the mixture and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes.5 tablespoons unsalted butter5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Add the milk, heavy cream, salt, ground mustard, and cayenne to the butter/flour mix. Use a whisk to combine the ingredients, then let everything cook until the cream begins to steam and the liquids starts to thicken.3 cups whole milk2 cups heavy cream1 teaspoon kosher salt¼ teaspoon ground mustard⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Slowly add the shredded cheddar, gouda, and Monterey Jack cheeses. Be sure to whisk the cheese sauce as everything melts together. The sauce should begin to thicken more as it cooks.8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese8 ounces gouda cheese4 ounces Monterey jack cheese
- Combine the cheese sauce and the pasta noodles. Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining shredded cheddar cheese.4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned bubbly. Serve hot!
- See post for tips and storage options.