Here is the best recipe for Traeger Mac and Cheese that you are ever going to find!
More importantly than just sharing the recipe, this article is going to break down the different aspects of what makes a truly amazing mac and cheese so you can tweak and adjust the recipe to your liking.
We are going to cover the following variables:
Let’s get started!
Choosing the Best Pasta
When it comes to the pasta there are two main questions you need to answer:
- Should you cook the pasta first?
- What type of pasta to use?
Cook the Pasta Before Smoking the Mac and Cheese
So here is the deal…you can make mac and cheese by putting uncooked pasta into the cheese sauce and letting it cook for about 90 minutes. But that is a bad idea.
If you do not cook the pasta before it goes into the sauce then you run the risk of the pasta cooking unevenly and having some bites of undercooked pasta in your dish.
Go ahead and boil the pasta for 15 minutes before adding it to the cheese sauce to make sure that every bite of the final dish is tender and delicious.
What Type of Pasta to Use?
Technically you should use macaroni shaped pasta since we are making Mac n Cheese but elbow macaroni really isn’t the best pasta choice for this dish.
You want the pasta in this dish to be a delivery device for the sauce so the more sauce it will hold the better.
The best pastas for holding sauce are actually rigatoni and cavatappi. These are both tubular pastas that have a larger internal diameter than macaroni AND has ridges on the outside of the pasta. Between the larger diameter and external ridges these pastas will hold about twice as much sauce as macaroni.
If you want to stick with macaroni then at least try to find “Jumbo Elbows” or something with a similar name as the larger size will at least get you closer to something like rigatoni.
Check out the Pinterest Pin below that uses cavatappi pasta. Doesn’t that look awesome?
Choosing The Right Cheese
The simpler you can keep the cheese the better. There are plenty of recipes out there that call for five to seven different types of cheese and I promise that all they are doing is trying to make themselves look fancy.
You want to use cheese that melts well and has nice flavor. I have found the best combination to be a mix of Monterey Jack or Velveeta for easy melting along with Parmesan for an intense flavor note.
I avoid the following cheeses:
- Cheddar: The oil separates when melted and creates pools on top of the dish.
- Mozzarella: Bland flavors
- Pepper Jack: Not always kid friendly
- Blue Cheese: Personally I LOVE this stuff but most people don’t.
Making The Sauce for the Mac and Cheese
There are about a hundred different ways of making cheese sauces but I take the easy way out and cheat!
The easiest way to make a spectacular creamy cheese sauce is to start with a commercial sauce and doctor it up. I like to use two jars of Newman’s Own Alfredo Sauce, add a cup of whole milk, and blend in two cups of shredded Velveeta while stirring in a sauce pan over medium heat.
The Extras for Over the Top Mac
If you want to make your mac and cheese be completely over the top amazing then all you need to do is add some tasty meats to the dish.
Some options to consider are:
- Chopped smoked brisket
- Diced smoked sausage (kielbasa and brats work great)
- Cooked bacon
Oddly enough, I don’t think smoked chicken goes well in the dish as it is easily overpowered by the rich cream sauce.
Personally I skip this step as I keep the dish meatless for the two vegetarians that show up at my table. Meat is great but it doesn’t have to be in everything 🙂
The Cooking Container (Cast Iron, Aluminum Foil, Casserole Dish)
You have some choices when it comes to the container you use for your smoked mac including cast iron pans, disposable aluminum pans and enameled casserole dishes.
If you are looking for Instagram worthy pictures then you just can’t beat using cast iron. The downside of using a cast iron pan is that clean up is a mess! Additionally the pan itself will get, and stay, extremely hot which makes moving it from your Traeger to the table a bit awkward.
If I am making this dish for a holiday meal I will typically stick with an enameled casserole dish. I will put the dish on a baking sheet so I can easily pick it up and carry it.
If I am making this for an office Pot Luck dinner, or anywhere lese where I need to transport it, I will use a disposable aluminum pan so I don’t have to worry about losing my good dishes. Clean up is also a breeze with disposable pans because, well…they are disposable 🙂
The Full Recipe for the Best Traeger Mac and Cheese
The BEST Traeger Mac and Cheese
- Traeger Pellet Grill
- 1 lb Cavatappi or Rigatoni pasta noodles
- 2 jars Newman's Own Alfredo Sauce
- 2 cups Shredded Velveeta
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and Pepper
- Cook pasta noodles according to package directions.
- Heat Alfredo sauce, milk and Velveeta in a sauce pan over Medium heat until cheese has melted.
- Spray your casserole pan with Pam.
- Add the noodles to the casserole pan and pour in the sauce, mixing while stirring.
- Sample the sauce/noodles and adjust flavor with salt and pepper as desired.
- Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the sauced noodles.
- Place the casserole pan in your Traeger at 350F and bake for 45 minutes to one hour.