Swiss Alps Mac and Cheese, made with gruyere, raclette, and fontina, has all the flavors of classic alpine fondue. Enjoy this baked pasta with white wine and Swiss chocolate!
For my birthday this year, Jonathan took me to a fondue restaurant. Jonathan really likes cheese, and he suggests putting it on almost everything I cook. The cheese fondue we had for our first course was the highlight for him. (My favorite part, surprise surprise, was the chocolate fondue for dessert.)
We had a classic alpine fondue, the kind popularized in the 70’s, made with gruyere, raclette, fontina, white wine, garlic, and nutmeg. I was thinking about making the fondue for us at home, but I resisted buying a fondue pot. Then I had the idea to make mac and cheese using the flavors from the fondue.
My first step before making a new dish is doing some good old-fashioned internet research. I like to see what other kind of recipes are out there and what’s been done before. To my surprise, I learned that macaroni and cheese actually originates from Switzerland!
It’s called Älplermagrone in German, which roughly translates to “Alpine Macaroni.” However, the word alpler can also refer to the farmers who used to bring their cows to higher elevation pastures every summer to graze. The alpler would stay up in the mountains all summer. They brought staples like pasta and potatoes with them, and they had so much fresh milk, they would actually boil the pasta in milk instead of in water. More on that from this website.
The Swiss add potatoes to their mac and cheese and top it with fried onions and often bacon. It is traditionally served with applesauce on the side.
I went with a more Americanized baked pasta, cooking the pasta in water and leaving out the potatoes and fried onions and applesauce, but I kept the Swiss cheeses and the fondue flavors. Raclette is a bit of a pungent cheese, and I was a little worried since I don’t like very strong cheeses, but the fontina and gruyere are milder and balance it out.
This recipe makes 6 – 8 generous servings. I want to share some meals that can feed a crowd because I know lots of people will have family and friends visiting around the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it for date night. I wrote about my philosophy on leftovers before. You can still achieve the crispy edges on the cheese when microwaving leftovers. The leftovers are so good for lunches or again for dinner.
If mac and cheese doesn’t seem romantic or elegant enough for date night or for serving to company, time to reconsider. You can spoon the pasta into individual crocks for a cute presentation, then serve with white wine and a salad. (It’s not in the picture, but I swear we ate a salad with this.)
You know what else the Swiss are known for, with all that fresh milk? Milk chocolate. Nougat.
If this doesn’t scream Toblerone for dessert, I don’t know what does.
Here are the main ingredients. The cheese in order from top to bottom is gruyere, fontina, and raclette. I used whole wheat pasta (the shape is called gobbetti), so we wouldn’t go into a food coma after eating this. There’s also milk, bread crumbs, flour, white wine, garlic, and thyme.
I started out with a béchamel sauce, then added in the shredded cheese.
Mix with the pasta and pour into a baking pan.
Top with breadcrumbs and bake.
Swiss Alps Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound short cut pasta (I used whole wheat gobbetti)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4 cups 2% milk
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus additional for garnish
- 8 ounces shredded gruyere
- 8 ounces shredded raclette
- 8 ounces shredded fontina
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta for 1 minute less than the time specified for al dente on package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a second large pot, melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often, until fragrant. Add flour and cook for one minute, stirring almost constantly. Start adding milk, a splash at a time. Stir so the mixture is completely smooth before adding another splash of milk. After you’ve gotten through the first cup of milk, you can start adding it in ½ cup increments until all the milk is incorporated. Add wine, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in thyme leaves. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove sauce from heat. Add shredded cheeses and stir until all cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Add drained pasta to the pot and stir until all pasta is coated with sauce. Transfer pasta to a 9” x 13” baking dish.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and stir to coat in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 2 more minutes, stirring often. Spread breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
Bake 25 – 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbling and breadcrumbs are a light golden brown.