One of the most popular American dishes ever, macaroni and cheese is more of a mindset than a recipe, shorthand for easy, unchallenging comfort food. Mac and cheese succeeds when it is creamy, rich, and cheesy, but that’s where any particular imperatives end—recipes can be variable, creative, incorporating garnishes, unexpected cheeses, and inventively crunchy toppings. Here are 6 to add to your repertoire.
Homeroom, a restaurant in Oakland, California, devoted almost singlemindedly to mac and cheese shared this perfect recipe with us. It combines béchamel sauce with grated sharp cheddar and Pecorino Romano cheeses, mixed with just-cooked pasta. It works beautifully as both a creamy stovetop dish with mix-ins, and as a crunchy bake sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs. Get Homeroom’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
This recipe was the winner at an infamous 2008 mac and cheese throwdown in San Francisco called Food Fight. It calls for the familiar elbow mac and creamy béchamel sauce, but the cheesing is bold, calling for white cheddar, Pecorino Romano, and Asiago: sharpness times three! Get Food Fight’s Three Cheese Mac and Cheese with Panko Breadcrumb Topping recipe.
We came up with this recipe to highlight proper mac and cheese technique: not overcooking the pasta, rinsing to shed all of the excess starch than can make a mac gluey, and making sure the sauce is extra cheesy. Add buttery panko breadcrumbs that crisp up like a charm, and it yields side-dish perfection. Get our Easy Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
Kraft changed the course of culinary history when, in 1937, it introduced Kraft Dinner, the first iteration of the boxed stovetop mac and cheese that almost everybody in North America grew up loving. In this stepped-up homage, we call for extra-charp cheddar, a bit of hot sauce, and a touch of Dijon mustard. Think of it as tradition upgraded. Get our Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese recipe.
Making a vegan version of a dish that relies on cheese and milk for its core charm is quite a challenge. Here, we combine unsweetened coconut milk, nutritional yeast, soy milk, a bit of Dijon mustard, and rich, nutty walnuts into a sauce that won’t make anybody miss the cheese grater. It includes caramelized onions, broccoli, and cauliflower for heightened texture and nutrition. Get our Vegan Macaroni and Cheese recipe.