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Recipe for whole wheat macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and thyme {vegetarian}


Not all that long ago, I had room in my brain for all the details I wanted to store there: birthdays, phone numbers, shopping lists, passwords, my car's license plate number, and the high-point three-letter Scrabble words. I also remembered who among my family and friends didn't eat strawberries, black olives, fish, dairy, stinky cheese, or green vegetables (bet you can guess that last one). Someone doesn't love mushrooms. I can't remember who, but I feel sorry for that person, because he (I'm certain it's a he) will miss out on this irresistible whole wheat mushroom mac and cheese when it appears on my Thanksgiving buffet this year. Whole wheat pasta isn't my favorite, but paired with woodsy cremini mushrooms and thyme from my garden, along with Gruyere or Danish fontina cheese, the more dense pasta seems so right. Serve this mac and cheese as a hearty vegetarian main course, or a side dish for any holiday meal.


Whole wheat macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and thyme

From the pantry, you'll need: whole wheat pasta, butter, all-purpose flour, grated cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, panko bread crumbs.

Serves 8.


13.25-oz box of whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, trimmed, washed, and chopped
12 oz sliced mushrooms (I love cremini or baby bella)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
4 cups skim (nonfat) milk
8 oz gruyere or Danish fontina cheese, grated
1 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Olive-oil cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a straight-sided casserole dish (approx. 9x11 inches) with cooking spray. 

Bring a large pot with 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add macaroni; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over low heat, and sauté the chopped leek for 2 minutes, until quite soft. Add the mushrooms and thyme, stir to combine, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small sauce pan, heat the butter over medium heat, and when it bubbles, sprinkle in the flour. Stir vigorously so the butter absorbs the flour, about 1 minute. Then, slowly pour in the milk, whisking steadily to make sure there are no lumps. Let the milk cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the pot from heat, and stir in the gruyere, salt and pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce into the macaroni, and add the cooled mushroom mixture. Stir to combine.

Transfer noodle mixture to the prepared dish. In a small bowl, combine panko, remaining parmesan cheese, and parsley. Sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.

Place in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is browned and the cheese is bubbling a bit along the edges. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, and serve hot. 

Serve immediately, or let cool and refrigerate for up to two days. As fantastic as this is on the first day, it's even better on the second day.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese
Slow-roasted tomato macaroni and cheese
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese
Four-cheese lasagne
Polenta with wild mushroom ragout

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Whole wheat Greek orzo salad, from Pinch My Salt
Mushroom spinach and asparagus pasta, from Shutterbean
Whole wheat spaghetti with garlic, chard, and pecorino-romano cheese, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Pasta with peppers and mushrooms, from Fearless Kitchen
Pasta with wild mushrooms, peas and bacon, from Turntable Kitchen

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I've got to find a type of whole wheat macaroni that I like, now that I have learned how Dreamfields shouldn't be reheated. I do agree that the flavors here seem like they would go so well with whole wheat! Would love to try this.

Hi there! I just pinned this recipe on Pinterest...it looks amazing! Found you rblog through Kalyn's Kitchen and I'm glad I did :)

pasta+cheese= best thing on earth. Add mushrooms and I am in heaven!

Kalyn, please let me know if you find a good whole wheat macaroni. I'm trying them all (even though I don't eat pasta very often), and some are just much too heavy. This was actually my local store's house brand organic pasta, and it was quite delicious.

Zesty Cook, welcome! So glad you're here.

Carol, yes indeed, this is the kind of comfort food we all crave.

I can't abide canned mushrooms - and for years avoided fresh mushrooms thinking they were the same. Thankfully, I finally realized how wrong I was - this looks delicious!

Make room in your brain to remember that I love whole wheat pasta AND mushrooms, and this would be the perfect dish to serve to me!

Kate, I'm so glad you learned to love fresh mushrooms! They are nothing like canned -- in fact, it's like a different life form altogether.

TW, duly noted. Now, when are you coming for dinner?

Who doesn't love mac and cheese..especially a jazzed up version like this! Wow. Great recipe.

This sounds fantastic! BTW I just stumbled upon your blog and noticed you are a fellow Rhode Islander. I live in the Northern part of the state as well :) I am looking forward to following you and trying some of these recipes. I am also interested in the Drop In and Decorate program. I had heard about it and will have to check out the website. Anyway, stay warm and thanks for sharing!

Lana, thanks. This one is a mushroom lover's delight, and I'm always happy to find ways to use the thyme from my garden.

This recipe looks amazing...can't wait to try. I am always in awe of mac & cheese when it comes out of the oven, but disappointed in the leftovers. The cheese gets congealed and maybe I just don't know the best way to reheat ??? Any suggestions ? Thanks !

Jemma, I often reheat in the microwave (for convenience), going very slowly, 30 seconds at a time, to make sure I don't overcook the cheese. I haven't had the congealed experience so I'm not sure I can be much help. My thinking is that adding some moisture in the reheating process might help -- a few drops of water, maybe.

Yum. I am so making this! Mushrooms in mac 'n cheese sounds perfect. Saw the recipe on PRK. Glad it brought me back to my friend, Lydia!!

Liz, this is a mushroom lover's treat. I know you'll love it.

Is there a specific reason you stated whole wheat and elbows? I couldn't find whole wheat elbows in my supermarket. If I can't find it in another market, what do you suggest as the best alternative? I'm committed to making this as I have all the other ingredients.

Mary-Rose, you can use any type of short pasta in your pantry. The mushrooms and whole wheat pasta make a terrific pairing -- very woodsy.

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