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I made such a soup this weekend (my first attempt) that was very pasty and gritty as an end result. I believe this is due to the preparation of the roux.

I sauteed onions in a stick of butter then added 1/3 C flour and toasted before adding the milk (instructed all at once).

I believe if I prepared my roux closer to what I'm more familiar with, by using less butter for the roux itself (also adding the milk a little at a time), and using the remainder of the butter to saute the onions separately, then incorporating them later, that the final consistency would be smoother.

Is this the right approach, or is there another way to ensure a cheddar based soup not come out pasty?

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Your description of the end result as "pasty" (which I'm interpreting as "very think, like a paste instead of a thick soup") implies to me that there was too much roux for the amount of liquid. And since the strength of a roux is determined by the amount of flour, I don't think sauteing the onions separately would have had much effect. Without having the full recipe including the amount of liquid, though, we can't say for sure that the ratio of liquid to roux is off. But if you try reheating the soup and adding some more liquid and that improves the texture, then I think you'll have your answer.

As for adding the liquid a little at a time instead of all at once, I also prefer that as a method of thinning the roux gradually and ensuring as few lumps as possible; however, it isn't necessary if you're willing to do a lot of whisking.

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    Taken along with "gritty", it also seems plausible that the roux was undercooked, so you get a gritty paste of grains instead of a smoothly thickened texture. – Cascabel Jan 8 '18 at 18:50

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