This goat cheese mac and cheese recipe is about as comforting as it gets. If you’re into comfort food, don’t look any further, friends.
I’ll teach you how to make your cheese sauce using a bacon fat-based roux, herbs, fontina cheese, and goat cheese, and how to marry your pasta with your sauce for a delicious, elevated stovetop macaroni and cheese that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds!
For everyone who asks “Can you use goat cheese in mac and cheese?” the answer is a resounding yes!
You may also like my more traditionally flavored creamy mac and cheese if you’re looking for something to wow your kids with, and don’t discount this tasty Cheeseburger Macaroni (Homemade Hamburger Helper).
For ease of browsing, here are all of my pasta recipes in one place. Thanks so much for visiting!
Watch my best goat cheese mac and cheese recipe web story here.
Why Make This Recipe?
The main reason to make it is the pure comfort you’ll get from eating it.
I developed this recipe after being pretty sad about losing some family members and going through our first holiday season without them, so comfort was the name of the game.
And this pasta delivers, especially if you are a fan of goat cheese.
Rather than tasting sharp like a classic macaroni and cheese with sharp cheeses and mustard powder, this version is all about the aromatic and herb-infused cheese sauce. The cheese is definitely there, both herbed goat cheese and rich, nutty, sweet fontina.
How to Make Goat Cheese Mac and Cheese
I promise this recipe is not hard to make. Let’s take a look at the ingredients, the process, some variations, and some helpful equipment.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Bacon: Use your favorite bacon. We used a thick cut bacon. The bacon adds salt, a smoky flavor and a little bit of textural contrast to the smooth, creamy sauce
- Pine Nuts: I like them for their sweet, nutty, mellow crunch. You can leave them out or substitute for pepitas for a bit more assertive crunch. Pecans would be amazing here, too.
- Bacon Fat: This is the base of the roux, and it adds a fantastic, silky mouthfeel as well as more smoky flavor
- Flour: Stirred in and cooked with bacon fat to make the roux. I use all purpose
- Milk: Provides the bulk for the sauce. I use whole milk. You can substitute 2% if you prefer.
- Chives: For both the garlic and chives, I like the freeze-dried ones from Litehouse. They keep much longer than their fresh counterparts and rehydrate pretty much instantly.
- Bay leaves: Use dried Turkish bay leaves (which is what most dried bay is). It adds an herbaceous quality that’s hard to pinpoint but you’d miss if it weren’t there
- Salt and pepper: To taste, Salt sparingly because both the bacon and cheese contain salt. Still, with a quart of milk to season, it’s a safe bet you’ll still need to use 1/2 teaspoon or so
- Cayenne: For just a little heat. I used about 1/4 teaspoon. Use up to 1/2 teaspoon for a bit more assertive heat
- Dried herb blend: I used Italian seasoning, about 1/2 teaspoon in the bechamel. Use your favorite blend or a blend that complements your goat cheese (see below)
- Goat cheese: I like to use herbed goat cheese. Adding a bit extra dried herbs punches up the herbal notes. See what herbs your goat cheese is mixed with and go from there.
- Fontina cheese: Fontina is mellow, nutty, and sweet. It also melts beautifully, giving your mornay lovely body
- Pasta: Use a short pasta here, one that will grab onto the sauce and not let go. I used pipette (also called pipe rigate), and I really loved the results.
Let’s break the process down into three parts:
- Mise en Place: Mise en place is French for “putting everything in its place.” In other words, get all your ingredients ready so you can make the recipe without stopping. For this recipe, you’ll:
- chop and cook bacon
- toast pine nuts
- grate the fontina
- cut the goat cheese into pieces
- heat milk with garlic, bay leaf and chives
- Mornay Sauce: A mornay sauce is a bechamel with cheese added to it. In other words, a mornay sauce is a fancy, roux-based cheese sauce.
- make a roux by cooking bacon fat and flour together
- add the infused milk along with seasonings
- Cook that down until thick (this is your bechamel)
- stir in your cheeses. Tada: mornay sauce!
- Mixing the Pasta and Sauce:
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water for about half the time stated on the box
- Add the partially cooked pasta along with about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to the sauce
- Bring to a boil and then simmer until the pasta is cooked and the sauce is nice and thick again
- Stir in toasted pine nuts and bacon, reserving some for garnish
For those of you who are more visual, here are some video clips of a few of the steps where it may be helpful to have a visual aid:
Part of your mise en place, you’ll simmer milk with chives, garlic, and bay.
Here’s what your roux should look like when it’s done:
This is what your sauce will look like once you add all the cheese but before you add the pasta:
And last, here’s what the sauce will look like once you add the pasta and cooking water.
Note it will look like way too much sauce, but the pasta will soak some of it up, and some of the liquid will evaporate.
Once it is thick and coats the pasta nicely, stir in the bacon and pine nuts and serve garnished as you like.
Here are some options for altering the flavor of your mac and cheese. Feel free to make whatever variation speaks to you. Or use these ideas as inspiration and then do your own thing!
- For a different kind of richness, use butter rather than bacon fat your roux
- Brighten up the whole dish a bit by adding the zest of a lemon to your sauce
- Rather than adding cooked bits of bacon, consider stirring in a generous 1/4 cup of bacon jam.
- Use all goat cheese or all fontina
- Switch up the herbs you use for infusing the milk
- Turn this into a baked version by skipping the roux and tempering your cheese sauce into 3 eggs. Mix with the partially cooked pasta, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes at 375F. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until the casserole is bubbling all over. Broil for the last minute or so to get some color on top.
- Swirl in some caramelized onions. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine has an amazing recipe for French onion mac and cheese, and I think this base would marry well with her technique.
Equipment You May Need
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You most likely already have all the equipment you need to make goat cheese mac and cheese. In that sense, it really is a dish available to anyone–no fancy or expensive equipment required.
I cook my pasta in a 3 1/2 quart pot, but a dedicated pasta pot is nice to have if you have the space. You’ll use it often.
Tips for Success
Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet (no oil), shaking the skillet constantly. Toss them with a spatula, and once they’re golden brown in spots, pour them onto a plate to cool.
When stirring in the cheese, turn the heat off and only turn it on low occasionally if the cheese doesn’t completely melt. You don’t want to bring this back to a boil until you add the pasta water.
Q & A
In place of the fontina, use an equal amount of provolone, Gruyere, Emmentaler, Havarti (the herbed kind would be fantastic here), Gouda, or Taleggio.
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I like to heat individual portions in the microwave with a splash of milk and half and half. Heat for a minute, then stir, and continue heating until hot. For food safety, it should reach 165F for at least 15 seconds.
Yes, you can. Spoon it into freezer bags, press out as much air as you can, and store flat in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight, and then heat as directed above.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
This is a seriously rich and creamy mac and cheese, so you can go one of two ways:
- go all in with rich, comforting sides
- lighten things up a bit with bright flavors
If you’re all-in, serve this as your main course and add a garlic and chive dinner roll or two.
If you’d like a little more balance, serve a smaller portion as a side dish to some bright chicken piccata.
Or consider going slightly retro and serving some of this fontina-goat cheese goodness alongside some classic meatloaf.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
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- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons finely minced chives, or 1 Tablespoon freeze-dried chives
- 3 cloves garlic or 1 Tablespoon freeze-dried garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 oz bacon
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/4 cup bacon fat
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (See Notes)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 6 oz mild chevre, crumbled and at room temperature (I used an herbed goat cheese)
- 8 oz Fontina cheese. shredded and at room temperature
- 1 lb short pasta, preferably one with ridges
- Bring the milk to a high simmer along with the garlic, chives and bay leaves. Keep warm and let the herbs steep while you cook the pine nuts and bacon.
- In a dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until golden. Pour onto a plate to cool, and set aside.
- Chop the bacon into 3/4" pieces and cook until crisp.
- Drain the bacon and set aside. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of bacon fat.
- Add the flour to the bacon fat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a light tan/beige.
- Remove the bay leaves from the hot milk with tongs, and pour the milk into the roux.
- Cook, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
- Keep it at a very low boil until reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.
- With the heat off, whisk in the cheeses, a bit at a time, until smooth and stretchy. Leave on the stove with the heat off.
- Cook pasta in well-salted water for about half the time called for on the box.
- Add the pasta and about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to the cheese sauce.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is cooked and the sauce is thick and reduced to its original consistency.
- Stir in most of the bacon and pine nuts.
- Serve hot, garnished with some of the reserved bacon and pine nuts as well as a sprinkling of chives.
A Note About Salt
Salt sparingly before adding the cheeses and bacon, since both contain a lot of salt. Taste just before serving and stir in a bit more if you think it needs it.
You can easily brighten up the whole dish by adding the zest from a lemon (or even 2) to your cheese sauce.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Reheat 1 serving at a time in the microwave. Add about a tablespoon of milk or half and half when you reheat. Heat for 1 minute, stir, and heat for an additional 30 seconds. (You microwave may differ from mine, so play around with the time).
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 543Total Fat 35gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 77mgSodium 783mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 1gSugar 7gProtein 26g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
Thank you for taking some time to read here today. I hope your holidays were special this year.
If you were at all sad or depressed, this macaroni and cheese will help.
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Take care, enjoy the macaroni and cheese, and have a lovely day.