Today, July 14, is National Macaroni and Cheese Day! Just because it’s hot out and we’re all about hydrating with something cool and refreshing doesn’t mean we aren’t still craving mac. It’s never a bad time for this classic comfort food, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to whatever you’ve got smoking on the grill. Whether you’re looking to keep it simple or use up all those spare truffles you have lying around, these picks are sure to hit the spot. Here are nine upgrades from the orange stuff in the blue box, plus a little treat at the end to inspire some kitchen magic of your own.
Recipe: Poole’s Diner Mac And Cheese
It’s rich, delicious and deeply comforting. The combination of the three cheeses creates interesting depth celebrating sharpness, brininess and a little bit of cave-aged funkiness. There are so many different versions of mac out there that each of us would consider “conventional” to our homes and formative years that it’s hard to note the differences between each of them. I think this one celebrates the simplest version of the classic dish (cheese, cream, noodles and salt) but with a lot of love and consideration put into each step and the quality of each ingredient.
Recipe: Cheez-It Mac And Cheese
Yes, Cheez-Its make up the breadcrumb crust for this baked macaroni and cheese recipe. The crunchy texture and amped-up cheesiness work so well, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been crumbling those little devils over your macaroni for decades. Plus if you have kids, they’ll think you’re a superhero.
I love the incredible savory element of the caramelized onions in this dish. Combined with the crisp, salty prosciutto, you’ll hit a textural balance that’ll make mashed potatoes pale in fear. Use our simple step-by-step recipe for killer béchamel sauce and our foolproof method for caramelizing onions. If you’re making this the day before, wait until just before you slide it in the oven to add the breadcrumb topping.
Recipe: Macaroni And Brie With Crab
Normally we cringe at the idea of a casserole, but any kind of macaroni and cheese is right up our alley. Better Homes and Gardens, famous for…well, better homes and gardens than yours, has a casserole book (aptly named The Ultimate Casseroles Book) with some impressive offerings. Brie cheese and lump crabmeat make this casserole a rich dish for special occasions. Condensed cream of mushroom and canned breadcrumbs aren’t invited. Sorry, guys.
Truffle macaroni and cheese is no newcomer to the elevated comfort food scene — in fact, it was one of the dishes that spawned a whole movement of Kobe dogs, foie gras dumplings and willy-nilly dollops of crème fraîche on everything. If you want to learn how to make this modern classic right, look no further than chef-to-the-Oscar-stars Wolfgang Puck. That makes this the real deal.
First up, a macaroni salad inspired by the patty pride of New Mexico: green chile cheeseburgers. The combination of grassy, smoky poblanos and tangy cheddar strikes a decidedly non-mayo and chopped celery balance and feels right at home next to slightly charred meat hot off the grill.
For a spin on the venerable macaroni and cheese, we hitch a ride down South and accent our pasta with slow-cooked collard greens, spicy andouille sausage and the holy trinity of onion, celery and green bell pepper. Oh, and a sprinkling of crumbled cornbread really puts this one over the top. We think you’ll love it, too.
Recipe: Breakfast Mac And Cheese
Great for breakfast, but this one’s also pretty darn amazing any time of the day. When we were testing recipes for a breakfast mac, we kept sensing that something was missing. Then Rafi, Erin’s brother-in-law and taste-tester that day, casually asked: “Why don’t you throw an egg on top?”
Fontina is one of the greatest melting cheeses we’ve ever encountered, perfect for a creamy béchamel sauce. Balance its buttery, mild flavor with sharp, nutty Gruyère and you have a cheese combination any shape of pasta would be only too happy to swim in; however, we love cavatappi for its sauce-catching tubular shape and ridges. Finished off with a cheese and herbed breadcrumb crust, this macaroni and cheese promises no leftovers.