Whether you’re a cheese and béchamel purist or like to throw on all the toppings you can think of, here’s how to get your mac on
There was a time when mac 'n' cheese had a bad rap: those bland ready meals and calorie counters did nothing for it's reputation.
Not any more.
Restaurants such as Russell Norman’s Spuntino, a French-style brasserie that hopped over the pond from New York, Balthazar, and street food regular and firm festival favourite Anna Mae’s have returned the humble dish to its rightful place as comfort food royalty.
Russell Norman, founder of Polpo, Spuntino and Mishkin’s, told Homemade: “Mac ‘n’ cheese (US) or macaroni cheese (UK) was an essential component of the opening menu at Spuntino and has stayed there ever since. The reason I was so keen on it is because it's the ultimate comfort food, containing the three major food sins in one package: carbohydrate, fat and salt.
“Ours is prepared in individual cast iron skillets and served piping hot straight from the oven. We use three different types of cheese and pride ourselves on its stretchiness when you pull out a forkful.
“We top the dish with cheesy breadcrumbs.” Yum.
And while part of this plate of pasta's charm is its familiarity, introducing lobster, truffles, breadcrumbs à la Norman or even avocado into the subtly cheesy, creamy mix is a very good thing.
Anna Mae shared her top tips with Homemade: “The great thing about mac ‘n’ cheese is that you can keep it simple or jazz it up, either way it’s totally delicious.
“We use elbow macaroni but you can use any pasta you like. Make sure it is a good quality brand, high in durum wheat with a golden colour and thick enough to hold its shape. Curls and hollow shapes hold a sauce best.
“Use lots of cheese – this is key. It doesn’t have to be the fancy stuff but cheesiness is always a winner.
“If you’re mixing in stronger flavours such as blue cheese or chipotle paste, keep the base sauce mild and creamy to carry this through.
“Simple changes can make a big difference to your mac. Try using different mustards such as Dijon, or adding some paprika for a change. Herbs sprinkled over the top will add colour and an extra dimension to flavour too – coriander is delish.”
Here's how to make mac 'n' cheese taste even more amazing
Just add: lobster
If there’s one pitfall of summer, it’s an absence of our favourite comfort foods. Now, we’re grateful of the salads and new season fruits, really we are, but sometimes we just want a meal to feel like a hug from the inside out – you know, the way mac ‘n’ cheese always does.
Well, your saviour in the form of lobster, fontina and mascarpone cheese is here. You can now eat mac ‘n’ cheese all summer long.
Just add: avocado
Trying to get avocado into just about every dish has become something of a hobby here at Homemade HQ. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate lazy person's mac ‘n’ cheese as there’s no oven required. Bonus.
Those clever people at Two Peas and Their Pod have created this creamy, cheesy, comforting dish of deliciousness. It’s like an avocado dream come true.
Just add: kimchi
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Korean food is in. It’s trendy. It’s what you should and will be eating this year.
Korean food without kimchi is like having a cup of tea without a biscuit – you wouldn’t do it. If you’re not acquainted with this form of fermented veg (which often includes cabbage) we’ll forgive you for thinking it sounds like a condiment. It’s so much more. Just look at this dish and tell us it doesn’t have magical powers. Get the recipe here.
Just add: bacon
A strip of crispy bacon has standalone power but add it to a macaroni mix and you’ll find yourself in a bacon lover’s dream. Note to self: always add bacon to everything.
Just add: truffle
Probably the most common (although possibly the most expensive) way to add a little bit of luxury when getting your mac on. Who are we to complain?