Mac 'n' cheese with horseradish? No, we haven’t gone mad. Try it and see…
Mac 'n' cheese is the ultimate comfort food which can be made in the classic way (macaroni swathed in a silky, rich, cheese sauce with grated cheese on top - in case you didn't know). But why stick with that when you can ring the changes so that this family favourite will never get old? Here are some unusual twists to the classic dish.
1. Mac 'n' cheese with spring onions and asparagus
A few tasty greens give a fresh new taste to mac 'n' cheese. If you’re using asparagus, give it a minute’s steaming before adding it in, cut into 1cm pieces. Spring onion won’t need any pre-cooking and, if you also sprinkle some over the top of the dish before baking, then spray with a little light olive oil, it will take on a golden, crispy texture.
2. Mac 'n' cheese with pancetta
Because of its origins, pancetta – Italian cured bacon – is the perfect addition to mac 'n' cheese. You can either fry the cubed variety until it is slightly crisp and golden and stir it into the macaroni with the cheese sauce, or grill the thinly sliced variety to a crisp, then shatter and scatter it over your finished dish. If you’re feeling indulgent, do both!
3. Mac 'n' cheese with sundried tomato pesto
Pesto is another classic Italian ingredient that lends itself to lots of different pasta dishes. The sundried tomato variety adds depth of flavour as well as colour – and with cheese and tomato making a perfect pairing, why not give it a go in mac 'n' cheese? Add a tablespoon or two when you’re thickening the sauce. It adds a delicious combination of pecorino, basil and pine kernels – yum!
4. Mac 'n' cheese with horseradish
In this variation, a couple of tablespoons of creamed horseradish adds a hot, unexpected kick. No one will be expecting it because horseradish will simply disappear into the cheese sauce. Add it once the sauce is thickened, smooth and silky, before pouring it over the pasta and stirring to mix. Then ask eaters to guess your secret ingredient.
5. Mac 'n' cheese with truffle oil
Truffle oil is notorious for being an expensive treat, but it’s so intensely concentrated that a little goes a long way. Buy a small bottle and add half a dozen drops into your cheese sauce before stirring it into the pasta. The flavour is earthy, pungent and deeply mushroomy.
6. Mac 'n' cheese with smoky bacon crisps
Using crisps as a topping gives a totally new twist on mac 'n' cheese - try it on other pasta bakes too. The smoky bacon flavour is a great complement to the cheese sauce and crisps' texture provide a really satisfying, crunchy and savoury topping. Just crush the crisps roughly in a bag using a rolling pin and scatter over before baking. Ready salted and Worcestershire sauce flavours work really well too.
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