Who can resist the thick, cheesy, indulgence of mac and cheese? In our experience at Plated, very few. We love it for its versatility—it can be classic and simple (like elbow noodles and cheddar), packed with veggies, made with ziti, or even flavored with truffles! The options are oh-so endless. This is everything you need to create your own adventure of mac and cheese, whether you decide to amp it up, keep it simple, or land somewhere in between.
Without pasta, it’s just cheese. Nothing wrong with that, but for these purposes, you’re going to need a noodle.
As the name would suggest, macaroni (short tubular noodles, often shaped into a round “elbow” shape) are the classic noodle for this dish. We always like the way they scoop up sauce, and can never resist the childhood memories that make this noodle the go-to.
The curly fusilli noodle is shaped like a corkscrew, and we like using it in mac and cheese because the outer grooves soak up plenty of sauce. In our four cheese mac and cheese, we smother fusilli with a comforting and creamy sauce of (you guessed it) four cheeses, before topping with breadcrumbs and baking.
Given its popularity in other baked pasta dishes (ahem, baked ziti), it’s no surprise that this noodle also makes an excellent mac and cheese base. It can be ridged or smooth on the outside, but always features a hollow center—also excellent for scooping up any remaining sauce.
So, the other part of mac and cheese is clearly the fromage. You have so many choices here, from the classic cheddar to combinations of other cheeses….so without further ado:
This originally English cheese is a go-to for a reason. It’s got just enough sharpness and saltiness to perfectly compliment any cream and milk, it’s widely available, melts well, and gives the dish its signature color.
We really enjoy combining many cheeses for our mac. We particularly like the combo of Fontina, Gruyère, and Parmesan like in this version, which also features kale and caramelized onions. The more the merrier!
For a super-indulgent, more French take on things, may we recommend lacing your mac and cheese with uber-creamy Brie? In this brand new Plated recipe, we’re combining Brie, Cheddar, and a little cayenne pepper to make the perfect sauce for a mushroom and asparagus mix.
The rich, silky texture of mac and cheese is one of our favorite things, but sometimes we crave a little crunch, too. Try combining a little Parmesan and olive oil with breadcrumbs, then sprinkling them on top for a crisp. golden brown topping.
We love adding in vegetables for added texture, color, and heft to mac and cheese. Also, it makes us feel like we’re not just eating carbs and dairy. Though we added beef to this mac and cheese and served it with Brussels sprouts, we’re pretty sure the Brussels would be just as good in the pasta! Peas and pea shoots also take a springtime mac and cheese to the next level, adding brightness and a pop of color. Caramelized onion and kale make excellent additions, as does butternut squash.
Whether it’s a garnish of chives or the addition of pesto, herbs always make a fragrant addition to a dish that, while delicious, can tend towards being one-note. Mix and match some of your favorite herbs (oregano, basil, you name it) and you’ll end up with an even more complex, sensational mac!
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