Autumn Classics | Man-made Mac and Cheese

by Michael on October 11, 2013 · 16 comments

Man-made Mac and Cheese

Autumn.  A season built on nostalgia and near-magical moments from our childhood. Family gatherings, crimson leaves floating end over end, dropping temperatures and layers of clothing, early dusk hours and comfort food. The beginning of a new normal, days that enter abruptly and end softly, bringing glorious colourful sunsets with them and evenings that have us yearning for the kind of foods that stick to our soul.

I remember my autumns as a child fondly. But I didn’t really appreciate them until recently. I hark back to days at my grandparent’s collecting leaves, not to bag them but to jump in them. Over and over. Again. The long drives from the big city to the small town, up past the old concrete bridge that marked the beginning of the end. Pulling into the driveway to see my grandmother perched in her well-worn recliner inside the big front window. Waiting.

Man-made Mac and Cheese 2

Mac and Cheese Sauce

Man-made Mac and Cheese 3

It was in their small house and even smaller kitchen where she would make me the comfort foods that I now expect in the fall. I’d work up an appetite by raking the leaves while she watched from the kitchen window. And when I walked through the side door and directly into the kitchen the aroma would wash over me and nearly knock me over. That memory never left me. It occasionally catches up to me, reminding me of how lucky I was.

So on one of the first cold evenings of the year, I collected my thoughts and made my own version of a childhood classic. Mac and Cheese.

My recipe doesn’t look anything like my grandmother’s, but it does have the bones of it in it. Rich, creamy cheese and a crisp topping. The foundation of mine is garlic and thyme, flour and cream. A thick base for the cheese. Every element combines to make this a rich, flavourful and crispy mac and cheese that is the epitome of comfort and autumn.

Man-made Mac and Cheese 4

Man-made Mac and Cheese 5

From my kitchen to yours.


Mac and Cheese


  • 4 cups of elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. grated cardamom
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated aged white cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (topping)
  • 3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese (topping)
  • 1 tsp. chopped thyme (topping)
  • 1 tbsp. butter (topping)


  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. 
  2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook your pasta according to directions. Cook until al dente. Drain.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme, cooking for about 3 minutes.  Whisk in the flour and cook for a further 2 minutes, whisking continuously. Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of the spoon, about 8 minutes.
  4. Whisk in mustard, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and pepper. Fold in the three cheeses until smooth. Add in the pasta and fold to combine. Grease 8 ramekins or one 2.5 L baking dish and spoon in the pasta mixture evenly.
  5. Meanwhile, using a saute pan, melt the butter and fold in the thyme, panko and parmesan until well mixed. Sprinkle over top of the pasta mixture.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden. Let stand until slightly cooled.

Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura (Tutti Dolci) October 12, 2013 at 12:57 am

Mac and cheese perfection! Love the nutmeg and panko topping.


Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar October 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

I love all the spices in this – it’s like a fall mac and cheese! So comforting!


Natasha October 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

I love the name “Man-made.” Homemade mac and cheese really is this best. All the different spices in this sound delicious!


Two Red Bowls October 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

This looks beyond-words incredible. I’m a sucker for any homemade mac and cheese, but this grown-up spiced autumn version (nutmeg! cardamom!) looks above and beyond. Need to try this at some point when I feel particularly in need of some comfort food. Thanks!


denise October 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Huge cardamom fan but have never thought of adding to a mac and cheese. You my friend have once again intrigued me not only through the story but the recipe. Must add to our menu planning for the fall.


marla October 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Ohhhhh. Very nice!!!


Di @ The Bluebell Cafe, England October 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

This looks sooo good! Love the Mac in a mug!


Kristen October 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I love it when you write about your childhood… I can almost picture myself right along there with you as your grandmother watched from her window.
Such lovely stories!


Rachel @ Twin Tough October 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I grew up with man-made (homemade) mac and cheese, and cannot bring myself to eat it any other way! Your recipe sounds delicious!


Heidi @foodiecrush November 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

While I know you’ve been busy with life’s adventures, just want you to know I’m glad you’re making time for us die hard VFMK followers. So happy for you and all you’re doing.


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