11 Ways to Make Mac 'n' Cheese
A version for every craving, whether you want vegetables, crunch, meat or even lobster—and every one of them is cheesy too.
Glenn Harris, executive chef and co-owner of the Smith
, which has two locations in New York City, uses a shallow baking dish to make this showstopper. That means there's maximum surface area for the cheese—a mix of Cheddar, Fontina, Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano—to brown and bubble.
Get the recipe: The Smith's Mac & Cheese
With roasted butternut squash and sage mixed in to the pasta and cheese sauce, plus a sage and bread crumb topping, this casserole from chef Mitch Rosenthal's book, Cooking My Way Back Home
, has a delightful balance of textures.
Get the recipe: Penne Pasta Quattro Formaggi with Butternut Squash and Sage
The Most Likely to Go with Sangria
This mac 'n' cheese put the New York restaurant Home
on the map. The recipe matches robust extra-sharp Cheddar, Wisconsin Asiago and dry Jack cheeses with smoked paprika for a subtle Spanish flavor.
Get the recipe: Home-Style Mac and Cheese
Photo: Hill Country Barbecue Market
Elizabeth Karmel, executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market
, which has outposts in New York and Washington, D.C., has figured out a way to marry the flavor of mac 'n' cheese with one of its classic accompaniments: smoked, barbecued meat. Karmel places the casserole in a smoker or a grill prepared with wood chips until it's hot and bubbly, which gives the dish a faint smokiness.
Get the recipe: Pit-Smoked Longhorn Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Photo: Benchmarc Restaurants
The Most Playful
Who says mac 'n' cheese has to be limited to elbows or shells? Chef and restaurateur Marc Murphy, of Landmarc
and Ditch Plains
restaurants in New York, started subbing in spaghetti and making a pie-shaped version for his children and their friends as an after-school snack. As it turns out, adults love it too.
Get the recipe: Cheesy Spaghetti Pie
Two legendary foods join forces in this dish from chef Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park
restaurant in Orlando, Florida. He makes a smooth Gruyère béchamel and folds in pieces of braised short rib, black pepper and grated horseradish, and then tosses it with rigatoni (which has ridges that are perfect for holding on to the cheese).
Get the recipe: Short Rib Mac 'n' Cheese with Gruyère
The Most Over-the-Top
Lobster tastes rich and buttery on its own. Pair it with creamy pasta—as chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier
do at their Maine and Massachusetts restaurants
—and it takes on a decadence we didn't know was possible.
Get the recipe: Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese
Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock, aka the Casserole Queens
, throw a dash of cayenne pepper into this luscious mac 'n' cheese. Sun-dried tomatoes help absorb some of the heat.
Get the recipe: Lunch Lady Doris's Spicy Mac and Cheese
The Most Nontraditional
Pasta pillows stuffed with a mixture of beets, goat cheese and Parmesan are tasty enough. But Philadelphia chef and Rustic Italian Food
author Marc Vetri takes them a step further: He tosses the "plin," as he calls them, with a butter-tarragon sauce and tops them with more Parmesan. The dish isn't baked like a traditional mac 'n' cheese, but it's no less satisfying.
Get the recipe: Goat Cheese and Beet Plin with Tarragon
This is no bland, low-cal mac 'n' cheese. Instead, whole wheat pasta, Greek yogurt and butternut squash add rich and hearty flavor—without the extra calories.
Get the recipe: Healthy Mac and Cheese
Photo: The Vault at Pfaff's and Corner Shop Café
With shiitake mushrooms and truffle butter, this dish from the Vault at Pfaff's
, a subterranean speakeasy in New York, is definitely a Saturday night mac 'n' cheese.
Get the recipe: Truffle Mac 'n' Cheese
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