The time has come to graduate from Cheddar. Don't get us wrong, Cheddar's rich mouthfeel and sharp and mild varieties make it a wonderful cheese to use. But, there is a better (more sophisticated) cheese that you should be using to revolutionize your mac and cheese: Gruyère.
Gruyère is a Swiss cheese known for its creamy, nutty, and earthy flavor. While Cheddar is punchy and bold, Gruyère is smooth and at first offers tangy-sweet fruit notes before lending rich subtle hints of mushrooms and nuts. Not only is the flavor unique, but cheese experts agree that the "Alpine cheeses" (a class of cheeses originally made in the Alpine region including Gruyère) are the ideal cheeses for melting because little salt is added in the cheesemaking process, allowing the cheese to retain its meltability. In baked dishes like mac and cheese, this characteristic texture of Gruyère means that it will meld into the rest of the ingredients, creating a lusciously smooth cheesiness in every part of the dish. To put it simply, swapping in Gruyère for Cheddar (or whatever cheese you typically use) makes for an aromatically complex and extra-creamy mac and cheese.
Are you ready to take the Gruyère leap? Simply follow our Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe and where the recipe calls for Cheddar, use 10 oz of Gruyère instead. Make sure you buy a block of the cheese and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheeses contain additives and preservatives that take away from the flavor and texture of a once excellent cheese. (Subpar cheese will not pass in a mac and cheese recipe—it's the main flavor of the dish!) Also, see tips for preparing the pasta for your mac and cheese here.
It must be noted that a mix of different cheeses also makes for an excellent mac and cheese. Use 5 oz. of Gruyère and 5 oz. of Cheddar for a marriage of creamy and nutty with tangy and punchy. You can even top the whole dish with some salty grated Parmesan for a trifecta of glorious cheesy flavor!