‘Chopped’ Champion Brian Riggenbach’s Mac and Cheese ‘on Steroids’ Is Perfect for National Pasta Day

Brian Riggenbach
Brian Riggenbach  Emily Dorio

Is there anything better than a warm bowl of mac and cheese? For Chopped champion Brian Riggenbach, the answer is no. That’s why the chef is sharing his Feeling Grate recipe with Us Weekly in honor of National Pasta Day on Wednesday, October 17.

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This rich take on the American staple is made with Cheddar, Manchego and Gruyère cheeses before being topped with flavorful, crunchy breadcrumbs, and is a big hit at The Mockingbird, Riggenbach’s restaurant in Nashville. “Our version, ‘Feeling Grate,’ is mac on steroids – it’s all about the cheese baby!” he tells Us  exclusively. “We use a blend of aged white Cheddar for sharpness and creaminess, Manchego for sweet and earthy notes and Gruyère for nutty goodness.”

And while some cooks might pay more attention to the cheese than the pasta itself, Riggenbach knows both ingredients play a crucial role in creating a flavorful meal, explaining, “We use a pasta shape called trotolle, which is named and designed after a spinning top, so the spirals hold the sauce really nicely. With such a simple dish, using top ingredients and the perfectly engineered pasta takes a good dish and amplifies it to greatness!”

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What’s more? Since National Pasta Day falls in the middle of National Pasta Month – October – pasta fans will be happy to know this recipe can easily be made again and again, should you wish to celebrate multiple times. Adds Riggenbach, “This dish is a simple and comforting weeknight meal, but it’s also rich and sophisticated enough to be a perfect side at a dinner party or for a holiday gathering.”

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See for yourself by checking out the recipe below!

Brian Riggenbach
Brian Riggenbach pasta dish Emily Dorio

Feeling Grate Mac and Cheese

Makes 6 servings


For the pasta
• 3 tbsps butter
• 1/4 cup flour
• 2 cups milk
• 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
• 1/3 pound Manchego cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
• 1/3 pound Gruyère cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
• Kosher salt, to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 tsp sweet paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
• 1/2 pound dried pasta, macaroni or trotolle shapes

For the topping
• 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
• 1 tbsp butter
• 3 each garlic cloves, minced


  1. Make the topping; melt the butter in a saucepan, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add in the panko breadcrumbs and toast until golden, set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a separate small saucepan. Add the flour, stirring with a whisk.
  3. When blended, add the milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk. Continue stirring vigorously until the sauce is thickened.
  4. Add the cheese in batches and stir over low heat until the cheese melts. Once the cheese melts, do not cook further.
  5. Add salt, pepper and seasonings.
  6. In a large pot of boiling water cook the pasta until al dente. Add the par-cooked pasta to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
  7. Top with the toasted garlicky breadcrumbs and serve immediately.

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