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Macaroni and Cheese 101

Macaroni and Cheese 101

Mac and cheese—always a recipe for smiles and satisfying hunger! Bet you didn't know there are so many ways to make it.

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

Though we all have our favorite style of this beloved pasta dish, there are multiple ways to build a mac and cheese. Depending on what you're looking for, you have a universe of possibilities in your kitchen when you’re craving this comfort food favorite.

Baked Mac and Cheese

As its name suggests, this style involves time in the oven to help heat, blend flavors and set the cheesy sauce. Cooked and drained pasta is usually mixed with a creamy cheese sauce in a casserole, then topped with additional cheese and bread crumbs or cornflakes for a crunchy topping. Finally, it’s baked until golden and bubbling perfection! Baked mac and cheese offers contrasting textures with its creamy interior and crispy top. This style is ideal for when you have friends over for dinner or are bringing a main or side dish to any gathering.

Baked Mac and Cheese

Overnight Mac and Cheese

This type is unique in that it skips the traditional bechamel sauce. Instead, you mix par-cooked noodles with heavy cream and cheese, then let it refrigerate overnight. The dish is then baked and topped with buttery bread crumbs. Make this version when you can plan for it the night before serving. It’s rich, decadent and fancy enough for a dinner party.

Make-Ahead Mac and Cheese

Southern-Style Mac and Cheese

The South takes its mac and cheese seriously! It's not Southern-style unless it can be cut like a cake. Multiple types of cheeses are mixed together along with heavy cream and additional seasonings such as garlic and onion powders, ground mustard and smoked paprika. Eggs are usually included, giving the final dish a custard-like texture. Every bite is unique, which keeps you coming back for more.

Southern Baked Mac and Cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

This version comes together quickly and is handy when you don’t have a lot of time for meal prep. At its most basic, it’s about stirring cooked and drained pasta (often elbow mac) together with a cheese sauce made of American cheese for a smooth melt and a sharp or mild Cheddar for additional cheese flavor. Of course there’s butter and milk in there too to help carry flavor and enhance the creaminess of the sauce. The sauce becomes thicker with the addition of cornstarch or flour, which is whisked in early in the process.

Ultimate Stovetop Mac and Cheese

For more mac and cheese inspiration, check out our Macaroni and Cheese recipe collection.

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