The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:58 PM

Food of the Day - Macaroni and Cheese

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Macaroni and Cheese

Truffled Mac n Cheese with Shitaki Shrooms and Spelt Egg Noodles-Recipe

This dish has been one of the most popular in America (as well as very popular in Europe) for over two hundred years.  It consists of pasta (traditionally macaroni, a tubular, elbow-shaped pasta) and cheese, often with other things added to fill out the dish to make it a primary course for a meal.  The cheese is often made into a cheese sauce that gives the macaroni a creamy texture, while imparting heavy cheese flavor.
 Macaroni and Cheese

Restaurant Style
Many restaurants serve macaroni and cheese as either appetizers or main dishes.  In this form, the macaroni is often served with a saucy cheese, covered in some sort of bread crumbs, and baked, to give it a crunchy texture to contrast the creaminess of the cheese sauce.  Unlike with many traditional pasta dishes, with macaroni and cheese, the noodles are usually cooked very well, until they are soft (not al dente), so that the bite remains creamy or mushy throughout.
  Whole Wheat Macaroni and  Cheese

Restaurants will often augment their macaroni and cheese dishes, to make them more gourmet in style.  Popular variations are served with ham or bacon, or served as lobster macaroni and cheese, with chunks of lobster meat.  Macaroni and cheese recipes can be found in many other varieties, and may sometimes be found including cottage cheese, or other products to add flavor, texture, and variety.
  Lobster Mac

Commercial Macaroni
Macaroni and cheese products can be purchased pre-made fresh, frozen, or in a box.  Unfortunately, the versions in a box are popular in the United States, and are what many people think of when they hear the term "macaroni and cheese."  These products are a disgusting travesty masquerading as macaroni and cheese, and are bordering on inedible.  While many kids may eat this without knowing any better, I suggest any discerning adult look into other options.  The world of macaroni and cheese holds wonders of amazing flavor that must be experienced.
  Boxed Macaroni

The popular versions of boxed macaroni and cheese use dried noodles that are very small, and cook in a relatively short amount of time, and use a dried "cheese" powder that is made into a sauce for the product.  Some versions come with packets of sauce instead.  These may be a cheap meal alternative, but they offer absolutely no culinary value.  The frozen stuff is usually a step above this, at least not using powdered cheese product, but still leave much to be desired.
How to Find Good Macaroni and Cheese
Remember, macaroni and cheese is not meant to be a low-fat food.  Any macaroni and cheese that is healthy will probably be lacking the flavor of truly great macaroni.  Look for macaroni and cheese that uses a variety of good cheeses, has a great texture, and uses lots of butter!  How can you go wrong with pasta, cheese, and butter?
  Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Making Your Own
There are a million macaroni and cheese recipes out there.  Try out different things, different types of cheeses, and different textures and additives, to find one that is perfect for you.  Try adding ham or bacon, adding sour cream or cottage cheese, using panko bread crumbs, or using cream to make a rich sauce.  The sky is the limit!
Cooking Tip
Try using whole wheat pasta instead of semolina or regular pasta for your macaroni and cheese.  Wheat or whole grain pastas have an amazing texture, a great flavor, and are good for you! (Balance out some of that butter and cream!)

Check out my next post for my delicious, very simple, non-traditional macaroni and cheese recipe.
Have a recipe you'd like to see posted here?  E-mail it to us at submissions@theardentepicure.com!

Individual Macaroni and Cheese in Grana Padano Cheese baskets -Recipe

Enjoy~

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