Smoky White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Leeks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
  • 1 lb pasta, any small shape you like (I used gemeli this time)
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium-large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 hickory smoked turkey legs, skin removed, meat cut off the bone, and cubed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 1¼ lbs sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional; more or less to taste)
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 450F; use 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish (or you can use 8 to 10 individual-sized gratin dishes or ramekins). Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions, then drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add the leeks and sauté until softened and just starting to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the turkey and thyme and cook 2 minutes more.
  3. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat; whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, then bring up to a boil, whisking frequently; cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn off heat and whisk in the cheese, salt, mustard powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  4. Mix together the pasta, turkey mixture, and cheese sauce in a large bowl, then pour it into the prepared baking dish (or dishes).
  5. Stir together the breadcrumbs and olive oil, then sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese bubbles, about 15 minutes in individual ramekins or 25 minutes in a large pan.
Hickory Smoked Turkey Legs: I buy hickory smoked turkey legs in the meat section of my grocery store; each leg gives about 2 cups of cubed meat, so this recipe uses 4 cups total. If you can’t find smoked turkey legs, you can substitute 4 cups of diced turkey ham (Mike and I don’t eat pork so we stick with turkey products). Or you can use a combo of leftover turkey and turkey bacon like I mentioned above.

To Reheat: Cover with foil and heat until warm in a 350F oven.
Recipe by An Edible Mosaic™ at