Mac and Cheese Maestros

Here's what goes into some of the best and gooiest bowls of macaroni and cheese.

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May 31, 2016 4 min read

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 can practice 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.

Many restaurants have developed unusual and delicious versions of macaroni and cheese.Many restaurants have developed unusual and delicious versions of macaroni and cheese.

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 an old-school taste that will leave you fully satisfied, you can’t go wrong ordering a bowl of baked four-cheese macaroni 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.

Fancy restaurant serves baked mac and cheese in a hot skillet with a side of Texas toast.

Mac and cheese gets a rustic twist with a skillet and Texas toast.

With locations in both Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, Cheesetique‘s specialty is offering an alluring array of cheeses for sale and 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 diploma comes with learning skills like preparing the French mother sauces and thoughtfully layering complementary tastes and flavors. These abilities could serve you well when you set out to craft your own idea of the greatest macaroni and cheese ever made.

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