Macaroni and cheese is a nearly universally beloved dish, but one on which chefs and other food enthusiasts often fiercely differ. We all have our own favorite combination of pasta, cheese and mix-ins. Luckily there are fantastic varieties out there to suit nearly anyone’s tastes. If you’re interested in pursuing an education at an accredited culinary arts school, you’ll master the techniques necessary to make a truly remarkable version of this comfort food classic. But first, you need to know what goes into some of the best and gooiest bowls:
What makes an exceptional mac and cheese?
Just as everyone has their own favorite mac and cheese, opinions differ widely on the best way to prepare the dish. For instance, Epicurious notes that many chefs strive to spruce up the meal by making the cheese sauce with creative choices like fontina, Gruyere, Brie or Gouda. However, editor Rhoda Boone insisted that only extra-sharp cheddar, with perhaps a nutty touch of Parmesan, can properly capture the classic flavor.
“Everyone has their favorite mac and cheese.”
Most directions call for getting that mac and cheese pleasantly creamy and consistent by mixing a bechamel, one of the French mother sauces. The white sauce requires combining butter and flour to make a roux and then gradually pouring in warm milk. On the other hand, The Kitchn suggested that the roux is not essential. If you’re in a hurry, the sauce will still thicken if you mix in a bit of flour with milk.
Then there’s the question of toppings and mix-ins. Baking the pasta with a breadcrumb topping, often panko, gives it a delightful crust. However, many recipes, like one from Martha Stewart Everyday, keep the noodles on the stovetop and skip the crunchy topping altogether. Further, you may enjoy a wide range of extras, opting to add bacon, peas, mushrooms, onions, broccoli or peppers. Still, some purists prefer to stick to the basics.
The best macaronis around
Whatever kind of macaroni is your favorite, there are plenty of chefs making this time-honored meeting of cheese sauce and pasta their own. Their creative variations and mastery of technique may give you inspiration for your own professional cooking or just a great family dinner.
For old-school taste that will leave you fully satisfied, you can’t go wrong ordering a bowl of baked four-cheese macaroni at Fat Willy’s Rib Shack in Chicago.”Check, Please!” shared the barbecue joint’s recipe, which includes a pound of penne rigate and plenty of fontina, cheddar, Romano and Parmesan cheese. While it may be billed as a starter, this delicious pasta will finish all but the heartiest of appetites.
For something less conventional, you might try chef Marcus Samuelsson’s mac and greens at New York City’s Red Rooster. As the name implies, this is one macaroni that’s heavy on the veggies. According to Serious Eats, it features Parmesan, Gruyere and cheddar, but also bacon, bok choy and braised collard greens.
With locations in both Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, Cheesetique‘s specialty is offering an alluring array of cheeses for sale and the wines to match. Those who sit in the dining room can enjoy a decadent meal that pairs elbow macaroni with goat’s milk Gouda, Asiago and the Italian sheep’s milk cheese, Cacio de Roma. The bowl is topped off by bread crumbs flavored with truffle oil. Food & Wine declared this dish among the best offerings in the country. And if you prefer seafood with your pasta, this establishment has you covered with a lobster mac that includes fontina, tarragon and a few drops of sherry.
Earning a culinary certificate comes with learning skills like preparing the French mother sauces and thoughtfully layering complementary tastes and flavors. These abilities will serve you well when you set out to craft your own idea of the greatest macaroni and cheese ever made.