This wonderfully smoky, uber-cheesy, mac and cheese makes itself at home with any barbecued meat.–David Leite


I’m glad you asked. LC Hump Day Pasta (#LCHumpDayPasta) is a little something we cooked up to help you on the night of the week that you feel least like cooking. Wednesday was traditionally Prince Spaghetti Day (for those of you old enough to remember). We’ve revamped and updated that to Hump Day and included every type of pasta there is.

A large tray tray of cheesy elbow noodles and a spoon.

Smoked Mac and Cheese

5 from 1 vote
Macaroni and cheese is a very traditional accompaniment to great BBQ. This recipe simplifies the process of making this extra-cheesy dish by using only one pan for the cooking. Cleanup is supremely easy, and there’s no need to make a roux and cheese sauce. Simply blend the sauce ingredients, pour it over uncooked pasta and throw it all in your grill to cook. Put the dish on the grill when you get home from work, and prep the rest of your meal while it cooks. Stir it a few times and you’ll end up with the cheesiest macaroni and cheese possible.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories932 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time1 hour 25 minutes


  • Gas grill, pellet grill, or smoker
  • Wood chips, wood chunks, or pellets (optional)


  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, preferably full fat
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, preferably full fat
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 pound small pasta, such as elbows, shells or bowties


  • Preheat your smoker or grill to 400°F (204°C), using pellets or a smoke pouch, if desired. Coat the bottom and sides of a grill-proof baking dish or cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon butter.
  • In a large blender or food processor, combine the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, milk, chicken broth, ground mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and hot sauce. Blend it on high until smooth and frothy, about 30 seconds. Stir in the shredded cheese and blend again briefly just to incorporate.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If your blender can't hold the full volume of the sauce ingredients, prepare two batches of the sauce, using half the ingredients in each batch.

  • In a large bowl, combine the dry pasta and sauce and mix gently. Pour into the prepared dish. Alternatively, the pasta and sauce can be mixed directly in the prepared dish. Spread evenly in the dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Bake in your preheated grill for 45 minutes, rotating the dish and stirring the contents once after 30 minutes. Continue cooking and check the pasta for doneness every 15 minutes until it is al dente, about 1 hour total. Stir the mixture if parts look dry or the pasta has popped out of the sauce.
  • When the pasta is al dente, remove the foil cover, arrange bits of the remaining 2 tablespoons (28 g) of butter on top of pasta and return the baking dish to the grill, uncovered, until bubbly and golden, 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.


*How do I make smoked mac and cheese gluten-free?

This recipe could absolutely be made gluten free, and easily too. Rather than making a roux for the cheese sauce, which traditionally has flour in it, this recipe uses the pasta to absorb the liquid from the mix, leaving behind the creamy melted cheese. Substitute gluten-free pasta and adjust the cook time based on when the pasta gets al dente. That’s it.

Adapted From

Weeknight Smoking on Your Traeger and Other Pellet Grills

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Serving: 1 servingsCalories: 932 kcalCarbohydrates: 66 gProtein: 49 gFat: 52 gSaturated Fat: 32 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 160 mgSodium: 971 mgPotassium: 535 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 8 gVitamin A: 1597 IUVitamin C: 2 mgCalcium: 1007 mgIron: 2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Adam McKenzie. Photo © 2021 Ken Goodman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I loved this smoked mac and cheese, and it was cheesy, indeed. It formed this fabulous “crust” on the bottom, that was both pleasantly chewy, but a bit crusty, too. Oh, it was truly heavenly. I made half a recipe in a cast-iron skillet (which made the most of that crust).

The ease of making the sauce in the blender, certainly is a plus. I did add a couple of fresh garlic cloves to the sauce, a half teaspoon of salt, and Calabrian chile powder instead of hot sauce. I think this would be a great campfire dinner. By making the sauce ahead, campsite assembly would be a breeze. I’ll absolutely be making this again.

The final product was creamy and golden, with a fabulous golden crust on the bottom. When serving, I flipped the mixture, so the crusty bottom layer was on top. So beautiful. This would serve 4 relatively hungry people, with a side salad and perhaps garlic bread. I can’t wait until Hatch chile season, so I can toss some in. Bacon bits could also be a great addition. My husband thought he would like some hot dogs cooked in it…next time! And there will be a next time.

I was grilling ribs today, so I started the smoked mac and cheese first. The first issue I had was realizing that neither my Hamilton Beach food processor nor my Waring blender would hold nearly 3 quarts of ingredients for the sauce as called for in the recipe. After some extra clean-up (and a little foul language) I managed to get everything into the pan, mixed, and onto the grill.

I did experience some difficulty maintaining a consistent 400ºF “oven” (grill). Cook times as such were pretty accurate, and the pasta cooked thoroughly, with the sauce clinging to the pasta nicely. Mrs. De Kok loved the creaminess of the dish, and I would definitely make it again, but in a conventional oven.

I served this dish with St. Louis cut spare ribs, dressed with mustard, Mission BBQ “red rub”, and Sweet Baby Ray’s original sauce.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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