Are you a pasta lover? Pasta is an old favorite for everyone. There are hundreds of cooking variations all over the world that use different kinds of pasta, as well as methods of cooking, taste, and style. You are about to learn about the most popular pasta recipe. It's enjoyed by old and young, on both special and ordinary days, and has survived the test of time.
In this Ultimate Guideline to Cooking Delicious Mac and Cheese, you will not only find out how to cook it, but also where it originated from.
What Is Macaroni And Cheese?
Mac and Cheese is a combination of pasta, cheese and cream that is an all season favorite for everyone. How can you go wrong with Mac and Cheese? As long as you have these three major ingredients, you can cook the way you want. Considered to be a housewives’ best friend, it's a hearty meal for all the family.
Needless to say, it is the most popular classic dish in America. Why else would they celebrate National Mac and Cheese Day every July 14th? On this day you have the chance to share your own Mac and Cheese recipe with fellow Americans.
Here is a funny video on how some of the Americans celebrate Mac and Cheese day!
1. The History Of Mac And Cheese
The name Macaroni and Cheese is usually associated with the Americans. It is one of their classic comfort foods that is welcomed anywhere, whenever. But did it really originate from them?
Pasta with cheese recipes have been popular since the 14th century, when they were recorded in cookbooks. Since then it has been a regular in households and often cooked for gatherings. The first recipe ever recorded for Mac and Cheese was from Liber the Coquina and Forme of Cury, which described it as a "mixture of pastry dough, cheese, and butter". We give our gratitude to these classic food lovers, as Mac and Cheese has now been accepted in all Europe.
Although we never really did find out who made the macaroni pasta that's used in the dish there's been speculation that the recipe was introduced to Thomas Jefferson. He loved it so much he brought a pasta-making machine back from Italy. So we can guess that Mac and Cheese conquered America during that timeframe.
2. What Are The Major Ingredients Of Mac And Cheese Recipe?
As mentioned before, the basic ingredients are pasta, cheese, and butter or cream. Popular recipes for it will be featured later as we go along, but you will now be wondering what kind of pasta can be used.
3. The Different Kinds Of Pasta That Are Perfect For Mac And Cheese
1. Shells - Use the same cooking method. It takes the same amount of time as macaroni, so it is the best alternative for this recipe. It has a more stylish appearance than macaroni and has shell shaped cups with corrugated backs and hollow interiors that capture plenty of the creamy sauce.
2. Elbows - This type of pasta is taken from the macaroni name, and is the original and most popular to use. It cooks pretty fast, and its pasta design is arced and tube-like perfect for capturing the creamy sauce.
3. Farfalle - Known as the "bow tie" or "butterfly" pasta, it is great for classy Mac and Cheese recipes, since it's wide and flat surface provides a nice touch for herbs, veggies, and other cooking add-ins.
4. Penne - It is recommended that you use larger pasta that is fulfilling to the last bite and retains its texture after baking.
5. Pasta that is also suitable, but not widely used:
You may have kept stocks of ready mix Mac and Cheese in your cupboard to satisfy your immediate cravings, but making Mac and Cheese from scratch tastes much better than any meal in a box.
Before you try a different kind of cheese, let's find out how cheese is made. Here is an educational video on how to manufacture it.
4. The Different Cheeses Generally Used In Mac And Cheese
1. Parmesan Cheese - This is for a full serving of super creamy Mac and Cheese. Roughly rigid in the surface, it tastes sweet and tangy and is often credited as one of the top cheeses in the culinary world.
2. Feta Cheese - This crumbly cheese is best for a Mac and Cheese with white sauce, and it's best cooked with cheddar. A brined cheese, it is made out of sheep's milk or a combination of goat's and sheep's milk.
3. Pepper Jack - The true American cheese, this is spiced with sweet peppers and herbs that give an extra twist. Its spicy but creamy taste lingers on your palate.
4. Cheddar Cheese - If you just can’t afford to mess things up, just choose cheddar. It goes well with almost anything! Made out of cow’s milk, it is the most common cheese used and is both sturdy and natural on the surface.
5. Cottage Cheese - Want a creamier Mac and Cheese? If so, a combination of cottage and cheddar cheese will get you the texture you desire. Take it from a soft, white, creamy fresh cheese.
6. Cream Cheese - Soft and mild to the taste, this fresh cheese is made out of milk and cream. When making Mac and Cheese, combine this with Mozzarella and Parmesan.
If you have been wondering what the differences are between all of the existing types of cheese, here is an educational video explaining the classification of cheese:
Remember, it is the sauce that makes this dish tasty. So, what’s in the sauce? The cheese, of course. For a perfect tasting Mac and Cheese, blend one sharp cheese and two melting kinds of cheese. If you do this, you will never go wrong.
The Different Methods Of Making Mac And Cheese
Way back in time, Mac and Cheese was originally baked. It would have stayed the same if not for of mankind’s creativity in the art of cooking. But now, you can make Mac and Cheese in any way you please. Which method is yours?
1. Stovetop Mac And Cheese
Some people do not have the luxury of an oven. But people easily adjust by cooking Mac and Cheese with the tools they already have in their kitchen. What can stop you from eating one? You can cook your pasta mixture on your stovetop using your skillet. It is still the same dish, pasta and cheese/cream sauce cooked together, and results in a sumptuous Mac and Cheese meal.
Here is a video on how to cook Mac and Cheese using the stovetop method:
2. Oven-Baked Mac And Cheese
Baking was the original way of cooking Mac and Cheese and is the easiest method. All you have to do is mix the ingredients, put it inside a baking pan, place it in the oven, set the time and wait. When the time is up, it is ready to eat. No sweat!
However, every baked Mac and Cheese has to be cooked on either the stovetop or deep fried during the cooking of the pasta and sauce.
Here is a video showing how to cook Mac and Cheese using the baking method:
3. Deep-Fried Mac And Cheese
The deep-fry method uses the deep-fryer instead of a skillet. This requires a lot of oil compared to frying pans/skillet. These are usually applicable to Mac and Cheese balls recipes.
Here is the video showing you how to cook Mac and Cheese by using a deep-fryer:
4. Cooking Mac And Cheese Using The Slow Cooker Or Crockpot
Using the slow cooker when making Mac and Cheese is simpler and a lot easier compared to the baking method. With a slow cooker, you do not need a baking pan. You can choose whatever you want to use, either the slow cooker or the crockpot. The result will still be the same with either of the two.
Just mix your ingredients right inside the slow cooker (you don’t need to cook the pasta ahead), when it's done, cover the lid, turn on the slow cooker and set the time. When the time is up, it is ready to eat. Hah! You can even eat it right from the slow cooker itself!
Here is a video showing you how to cook Mac and Cheese by using the slow cooker:
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Different Cooking Methods
The methods of making Mac and Cheese without using an oven are called "no bake" Mac and Cheese recipes. Among the four different methods used, which one are you fond of? If you have not decided yet, here are the advantage and disadvantages of each method.
Oven Top - The best method in terms of saving time
Slow Cooker - The best method in terms of less effort
- The result is surprising really. Oven baking is usually the preference when cooking Mac and Cheese, but if you looking at the table above, you'll see that the slow cooker is the winner for needing less effort and the oven top for saving time.
What do you think about the above result? Needless to say, whatever the advantages and disadvantages are, Mac and Cheese will always be heavenly delicious. Which method do you prefer now?
Common Mac And Cheese Cooking Mistakes And How To Avoid Them
It does not matter how old this recipe is, practice makes perfect. As you are cooking Mac and Cheese for the very first time, these common mistakes might apply to you.
1. Where’s The Sauce? Dry Mac And Cheese
This is the worst mistake of all. Mac and Cheese should be creamy and ooze with tasty sauce. Who wants it dry? However much time, effort and expensive ingredients you just poured in, a dry Mac and Cheese will be ignored.
How to avoid making a dry Mac and Cheese?
- Use the stove top method, which is best for retaining the consistency of the sauce.
- Do not make the sauce too thick or there won’t be enough sauce when the cooking is done. The pasta will absorb it all.
- Always make extra sauce. If you notice it is drying up quickly during the process, add extra sauce!
- Stick to the times we've given as overcooking will mean your Mac and Cheese dries up or gets burnt.
- Try adding pasta by portions. When you have reached the desired consistency of the sauce, stop adding the remaining pasta and set it aside for later or the next time you cook.
2. Yummy To The Eye But Tasteless
Looking at this dish can make your mouth water, but it would be devastating if it proved completely flavorless. That would be an epic fail to the palate!
How to avoid making a flavorless Mac and Cheese
- Use the correct blend of cheeses. You can use the best-tasting cheese (sharp) or mix the sharp with the mild, and then test it.
- If you have a cheese shortage, you will need to add enough cheese to reach the desired taste.
- Add garlic and your other favorite spices to the ingredients, and let the spices do their magic!
- Try to adjust the amount of salt and pepper.
- Use fresh herbs, not dried ones.
- A little twist won't do any harm, so add some hot sauce if you prefer.
3. What Cheese Do You Use? It's Not Cheesy Enough!
This could be another reason why it is flavorless. So mistake #2 is related to this. Of course, it has something to do with cheese.
So how do you fix it?
- Try to experiment - three types of cheese make a yummy Mac and Cheese. Look for one sharp and two that melt easily.
- You've got to test taste while mixing the sauce. If you think it needs more cheese, then add more before it’s too late.
- Always choose the best quality cheese - ask the experts what they use.
4. Overcooked Pasta
A creamy Mac and Cheese is yummy to the last bite, and there’s nothing better than firm pasta to hold the sauce and maintain its texture. But soggy pasta will make you lose your appetite.
How to avoid soggy pasta
- Follow the instructions while cooking the pasta and master the al dente goodness of cooked pasta.
- Test the pasta from time to time while boiling the pasta and make sure it is isn't overcooked.
- If you plan to bake the pasta afterward, only half cook the pasta while boiling it. Then it will cook perfectly in the oven.
5. Watery Sauce
Where did the creaminess go? If it’s watery it will be tasteless and you’ll be wondering if you are you eating Mac and Cheese or sipping soup.
How to avoid watery sauce
- Mind how much liquid you put in it. If you put more than what's needed, you will make your Mac and Cheese too watery and the pasta soggy. It will affect the taste too. So add the liquid gradually.
- If you think you've added more liquid than necessary, add more cheese to make it consistent.
- If you cooked it on the stovetop, bake it for another few minutes to reduce the liquid.
- If you baked Mac and Cheese turns out watery from the oven, let it set for a few minutes and the texture will change.
6. Choosing The Wrong Pasta
As you learned in the first part of the article, certain types of pasta are perfect for Mac and Cheese. Stick to this list and it will end up just fine. Mac and Cheese pasta should be thick, firm and must have those grooves and hollow designs to hold the creaminess of the sauce.
7. Grainy Cheese Sauce
Losing the smooth texture of the cheese sauce has a big negative impact on the quality of the taste. The sauce should be creamy, smooth and tasty. If the sauce is grainy, the taste will never be the same.
How to avoid grainy cheese sauce?
- Combine the right kind of cheeses. If you have chosen more sharp cheese than soft kind, it will end up grainy. Try to see our cheese list on top for the guide. Remember one sharp, 2 soft cheese blend.
8. Separation Of The Sauce When Cooking
It's very frustrating when you see the sauce separate during cooking. It needs more effort to fix it. Try and find out how to balance it.
- Make sure you balance the number of ingredients when cooking white sauce. Add all of them gradually while continually whisking the sauce until it thickens.
9. Oily Mac And Cheese
Who like greasy Mac and Cheese? This is worse than watery sauce. Oil is the last thing you need in your bowl.
How do you avoid this oily sauce texture?
- Do not overcook or overheat the cheese and this is will lead to the fat separating from the cheese, which creates the oily sauce.
10. My Mac And Cheese Crust Tastes Bad
The brown crust on top of Mac and Cheese, which is a combination of the sauce and breadcrumbs, makes it more deliciously inviting. Your mouth will water knowing the brown crust is a combination of the sauce and breadcrumbs that’s been perfectly cooked.
How do you get that perfect brown crust of Mac and Cheese and not the burnt, bad tasting one?
- A simple trick will do. Usually, the crust burns if it's been exposed to heat for too long. Try baking the Mac and Cheese without your toppings first and then, when it is halfway, add the toppings so that they cook in half of the time. It will not get burned and turn out to be the delicious brown crust you want it to be.
That should sum up all the common Mac and Cheese failures nearly everyone has experienced while trying to make the perfect tasty dish. But don't worry, when you finally get it right, you will be able to eat it whenever you want.
Mac And Cheese & Health
Mac and Cheese recipes are delicious but let's look at how nutritions it is. Is the dish as nutritious as it is yummy? It is a favorite for both the old and young generations alike, so let us see how healthy it is for our body.
1. The Health Benefits Of Mac And Cheese
The macaroni pasta that is usually used does not really have a high source of fiber and other nutrients. Replacing it with wholewheat pasta version will do the trick though. Obviously, cheese has lots of health benefits for the human body.
Let’s focus on these two major ingredients and see what we can get:
- Fiber - prevents constipation, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.
- Iron - enable the production of hemoglobin and plays a great role in the immune system and cell growth.
- Phosphorus - promotes healthy skin, nerves, and digestion.
- Zinc - is great for cell division, the immune system and the fast healing of wounds.
- Other nutrients, like calcium, which strengthen the bones and teeth.
- Potassium - this reduces the risk of high blood pressure and promotes muscle health.
- Folate and vitamin B - prevent birth defects.
- Protein - needed for bodybuilding.
- Vitamin A - maintains healthy vision and contains antioxidants.
2. The Nutritional Controversy Surrounding Mac And Cheese
This controversy boils down to the Kraft Mac and Cheese product. There was a massive withdrawal of the product that started in 2015 and people have thought twice about picking it up in the supermarkets ever since. Although Kraft claimed it was just temporary, they were obliged to recall the products from supermarket shelves and it has got even worse since then.
The main reason for the chaos was the allegations that some manufactured batches of Kraft original flavored Mac and Cheese contained metal bits. I guess Kraft has lost the trust of consumers as the same thing happened in 2013 when the same macaroni product was recalled because Kraft has used yellow die and GMO wheat in it.
Although Kraft announced they had already removed artificial coloring from the next batches, their sales would never be the same again. It is a good thing that more people are now opting to cook Mac and Cheese from scratch.
3. Tips On How To Make Your Mac And Cheese Healthy
Let’s face it, Mac and Cheese is high in calories, sodium, and fat. I guess you cannot have it all and this super delicious meal has its ups and downs. However, you can always find a way to make this a healthy recipe. Here are some tips to help you:
- Use macaroni pasta that is made out of wholewheat, which is a high source of fiber.
- Buy low-fat cheese to minimize your intake of saturated fat.
- Add more veggies and herbs.
- Reduce the cheese and replace it with your favorite vegetable puree as it will add a twist to the taste and maintain the creamy texture.
- Replace a portion of the cheese with yogurt.
- Replace whole milk with low-fat milk to reduce your intake of fats.
- Replace the butter with olive oil.
Here is a cooking video about a healthy Mac and Cheese recipe:
Pro Tips From Other Bloggers
Of course, you won’t be able to make a perfect Mac and Cheese without learning from the experts. Here is a collection of helpful tips from bloggers, who are moms, food fans, chefs, and professionals, to guide you more the venture of cooking the ultimate Mac and Cheese.
The Best Mac And Cheese Recipes Are All Unique
It may be because this recipe is very old and has evolved over time. The simple recipe of mixing pasta with cream and cheese goes a long, long, way back. Currently, there are hundreds of Mac and Cheese recipes that people have created. I wonder what your own version is? Now, let's focus on how to make the basic Mac and Cheese pasta perfect. This is essential if you are to make your own Mac and Cheese version the best!
Here is a video that shows you how to make the perfect Mac and Cheese pasta!
Selected Healthy Mac And Cheese Recipes
Here are 6 best healthy Mac and Cheese recipes for health conscious people. You'll find there are always ways to keep every delicious recipe healthy!
We have reached the end of this article, which has explained the origins of Mac and Cheese and given you a complete rundown of many of the favorite recipes for this delicious dish. You have learned a great deal about its nutrition value and the essential ingredients that give Mac and Cheese its perfectly creamy delicious classic taste.
We've given you a complete guide to making it yourself, so good luck with cooking this hearty and sumptuous meal!.