Mac and cheese is always a crowd pleaser. What’s not to love? It’s got carbs (hello macaroni!) and cheese (holler gooey comfort!) and big batches can easily be made to feed a hungry group. Depending on your mood, you can go for traditional or get fancy with some subtle (or not-so-subtle) variations.
Keeping it simple doesn’t have to be boring. Here the traditional breadcrumb topping gets a touch of Italian flair with gremolata (i.e. an herb condiment made with lemon zest, parsley and garlic). Just refrain from blitzing the parsley too much, or you’ll end up with green breadcrumbs (which we might add is great for Halloween!).
TIP: Undercooking the pasta is important to prevent it from going mushy when baked. Remove it from the water just before it hits al dente and let it finish cooking in the oven.
CLASSIC WITH A TWIST: MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH MORNAY SAUCE
Mornay is just a fancy name for basic béchamel sauce with a hint of Gruyere. If that isn’t drool-inducing enough, the three other cheeses packed in this dish (cheddar, Fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano) will really get your taste buds going. To keep the sauce from burning, use a wooden spoon to scrape across the bottom and sides of the pot
TIP: Don’t skip cooking the base of the roux (i.e. butter and flour). That extra couple of minutes is necessary to eliminate that raw flour flavour from the sauce.
GOURMET: LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE
Date night is sorted. You’re welcome. Lobster immediately spells something special, but the elegance doesn’t end there. A touch of dry vermouth adds that je ne sais quoi to the sauce. Bacon, mustard, cayenne and garlic make an appearance too, ensuring that every bite ticks the most important box: delicious!
TIP: Reserve a bit of pasta water to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. If you prefer a richer flavour, add some warmed milk instead.
SEASONAL: PUMPKIN JALAPEÑO MAC AND CHEESE
Hold the pumpkin spice, bring on the pumpkin puree. This stovetop version captures the spirit of fall by pairing the season’s favourite vegetable with the spicy kick of jalapeño (think of it as an extra hit of warmth). With just eight ingredients, this recipe is pretty simple for the amount of flavour it delivers which is perfect if you’re new to the non-boxed mac and cheese game.
A TINY HEALTH BOOST: BEANY MAC AND CHEESY
If you’re a mac and cheese traditionalist, you probably prefer your m&c without veggies. But how do you feel about legumes that melt right into the sauce? Get all the benefits of white beans – lean protein, fibre, anti-oxidants, magnesium – while still enjoying the classic taste of the mac and cheese you know and love.
TIP: Some recipes will tell you what size casserole dish to bake your masterpiece in but might we suggest choosing a size based on how much you like topping? If you’re a lover of crispy bread crumbs and added melted cheese, choose a larger dish and get more surface area. Prefer that gooey pasta bottom? Use a smaller dish and get more of that.
LOADED: ZESTY MAC AND CHEESE
This recipe takes its moniker seriously. With cream cheese, cheddar, Parmesan and Romano—there’s a generous amount of decadence built in. Using a combination of cheeses adds a complexity of flavour that’s enriched further by the cream and whole milk. Eat it off the stove or bake it for a few minutes—with extra cheese on top, of course.
TIP: Avoid packaged cheeses, which often contain additives that affect melting ability. It might take more effort, but freshly grated cheese makes a difference.