Three Cheese Ziti with White Cheddar, Gruyere, & German Butterkase

There are probably millions of different mac 'n' cheese recipes in the world. Seriously. Cheese & pasta is one of those glorious combinations that you can switch up in so many different ways, creating delicious version after delicious version. So, today isn't about having The Perfect Recipe. It's about experimenting. Don't close the playbook on mac 'n' cheese just yet and call it game-over.

I recently came across a German cheese, called Butterkase, and knew instantly that I wanted to melt it into a rich, creamy sauce for some pasta. Butterkase is a semi-soft, cow's milk cheese, so it's smooth, creamy, and mild. (As my sister so eloquently put it, "Not too funky.") This cheese turned out to be a perfect addition to baked ziti!

Instead of the typical elbow macaroni, I decided to use ziti! The long tubes fill up with sauce, giving every bite the right amount of gooey, melty yumminess. (Totally scientific terms, those are.)

A classic bechamel is the texture-foundation for the sauce, but the flavor-stars are definitely the cheese! I used a combination of white cheddar, Gruyere, and Butterkase. The white cheddar brings that comfort factor everyone loves, and the aged Gruyere has a nuttiness and sharper flavor that balances out the ultra rich Butterkase.

I had never tried this German cheese before, so it was a lot of fun to "figure out." (I'm pretty sure I grated the entire block, but only half of it was left because I kept tasting and the handful.) Like with wine, spices, or fresh fruits/vegetables, I love discovering something new to play with!

This recipe is as simple as: 1) Partially cook your pasta. 2) Make your bechamel. 3) Grate your cheeses. (FYI, it's really easy to make each component separately and ahead of time. Great for make-ahead meals and party planning!)

Once each part is prepped, simply combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Evenly coat the ziti, then transfer to a 13" x 9" baking dish and spread into an even layer.

Top the pasta with seasoned breadcrumbs and a drizzling of olive oil, then bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. For the last 2 minutes, turn on the broiler!

The top will be golden-brown and crisp! Underneath? Nothing but creamy, tender pasta!

My 5-year-old nephew, Jon, is the Mac 'N' Cheese Expert, and even he gave this Three Cheese Ziti the thumbs up! (I'll never get tired of him coming up to me after dinner and saying, "Auntie, I loved your cooking!" *cue the Awww track*) It's velvety and buttery rich. 

I would love to try the Butterkase with roasted vegetables, like broccolini or sweet rainbow carrots, and I think this dish would also taste amazing with mushrooms and caramelized onions! Like I said, there are so many ways to serve mac 'n' cheese! So get out there, find yourself some Butterkase, and start experimenting! :)

Three Cheese Ziti (makes 6-8 servings)

Print Recipe
1 lb Ziti Pasta
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
5 cups Whole Milk
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black or White Pepper
1 1/2 cups Shredded Sharp White Cheddar
4 oz Gruyere, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups shredded)
4 oz Butterkase, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups shredded)
1 1/2 tbsp Breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
  1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Slightly undercook ziti by boiling it for 2 minutes less than the recommended time on the package instructions. Drain water, then set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook mixture for about 2 minutes. (Stir continuously, and do not brown!) Next, pour in the milk. Whisk continuously to prevent lumps. Cook the sauce over medium-low heat until thickened and creamy, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, sauce, and shredded cheeses. Transfer the pasta to a 13" x 9" baking dish, and spread it into an even layer. Top with the mixture of breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Lightly drizzle olive oil.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turning on the broiler for the last 2 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately! Enjoy!