This gourmet Mac and Cheese recipe with sweet caramelized leeks, salty pancetta, and a blend of three rich cheeses is an elegant twist on a comfort food classic. Don’t forget the cheesy, crunchy, buttery bread crumbs on top!
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Macaroni and Cheese is the ultimate winter comfort food in my house. It’s decadent, warming, and while it isn’t exactly health food in all of it’s buttery, cheesy glory, it’s a dish that’s so worth the occasional splurge.
Classic Mac and Cheese is pure nostalgia, but I love experimenting with different flavor combinations. Some of our favorites have been Smoked Gouda; mushroom and Gruyère; and the recipe that I’m sharing with you today, Gorgonzola, caramelized leek, and pancetta.
The Gorgonzola brings a nice piquant flavor to the background without being overpowering. I made this gourmet mac and cheese during a live cooking demonstration at the New Jersey Home Show a few years ago, and people were coming up for thirds!
Love Mac and Cheese and Have an Instant Pot? Try making my Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese with 4 gourmet sauce variations!
What You’ll Need to Make Gorgonzola Mac and Cheese
I make my macaroni and cheese as my mother taught me; with a classic flour, butter, and dairy-based Béchamel sauce, and lots of shredded cheese (a Mornay sauce, really). For this recipe, I use a combination of milk and half and half.
For my cheeses, I use Gorgonzola, Fontina (which melts beautifully), and Parmigiano Reggiano.
In general, Gorgonzola can be pungent, so you don’t need to use a lot of it to add flavor here. Pungency will vary by wedge and variety, so taste yours before using and add it conservatively if it’s on the stronger side.
Tip: Regardless of the cheeses I’m using, I always buy blocks and shred them at home. Pre-shredded cheeses usually have added starches to prevent clumping, which risk making your sauce gritty.
You’ll also need leeks, which you’ll caramelize to add a delicate hint of sweetness, and diced pancetta (Italian cured, un-smoked pork belly). I often find pancetta near the deli, charcuterie cases, or with bacon.
When prepping the leeks, be sure to wash them thoroughly. There’s often grit between the layers, and if it ends up in your cheese sauce, it won’t be pleasant.
For the pasta, I like to use a short-cut pasta, like medium shells (shown) or pipettes. I love how the sauce settles into these shapes’ nooks and crannies.
I top my Gorgonzola Macaroni and Cheese with buttery Panko breadcrumbs tossed with Parmigiano Reggiano before baking. It’s a simple topping that adds a great crunchy contrast.
Tips for Making this Dish
- You can either make this macaroni and cheese in individual ramekins or a large baking dish. You’ll need six, 10-ounce ramekins or a 2-½ quart gratin or similar sized oval or rectangular baking dish. The gratin will take a few more minutes to bake until bubbly than the ramekins will.
- Since this macaroni and cheese is baked, cook your pasta just to al-dente before mixing with the cheese sauce so it doesn’t get too soft in the oven.
- The sauce should look, well, saucy before it goes into the oven. Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of pasta water. It will thicken as it bakes, and you don’t want the dish to be dry.
Serving Your Gourmet Mac and Cheese
It’s best to serve this recipe soon after baking. Like many mac and cheese recipes, it can get a little dry the longer it sits.
Similarly, I don’t think it’s quite as delicious when reheated as leftovers. If you do need to reheat it the next day, do so over gentle heat, and add a little extra half and half to help it regain its creamy texture, as neeeded.
This recipe is great for game day parties, warming up during a blizzard, or really, “just ’cause.” Does one really need a reason to dig into a pan of bubbly macaroni and cheese? I think not!
More Blue Cheese Recipes
- Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
- Blue Cheese Crusted Steak with Caramelized Shallots
- Classic Wedge Salad
- Maple-Sriracha Devils on Horseback
- Cambozola Stuffed Figs
Gourmet Mac and Cheese with Gorgonzola and Pancetta
- 8 ounces short-cut pasta (such as pipettes or medium shells)
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano , divided
- ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola *
- 2 cups shredded Fontina
- 1 cup half and half
- 1-½ cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 large leek (white and light green parts only), washed thoroughly and cut into ¼-inch slices
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided, plus additional for buttering ramekins or baking dish
- chopped parsley or snipped chives , for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in middle position. Butter a 2-½ quart gratin or baking dish, or six, 10-ounce ramekins. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Mix Panko, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Cook pasta to “al-dente” in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining well.
- While bringing your pasta water to a boil, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until foaming subsides. Add pancetta and cook over medium-high heat until fat is rendered and pancetta is just beginning to crisp.
- Add leeks, ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper to the pot. Cook until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until leeks are very soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and half and half, stirring until sauce is smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes. Whisk in Fontina, Gorgonzola, and ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
- Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring until well combined. Stir in enough pasta water to make the sauce creamy, but not thin and watery (I usually add about ¼ cup). Transfer pasta to prepared baking dishes and top with breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and breadcrumbs are toasted. Sprinkle with parsley or chives, if desired, and serve hot.
This recipe was originally published on Striped Spatula on February 5, 2017. It was updated with new photographs, video, and additional cooking tips in September, 2020.