For many of us raised on American cooking techniques, there were likely few things better than a heaping bowl of boxed macaroni and cheese. Not only is this dish super easy and fast to make, but it also comes packed with that warm, cheesy goodness that is unforgettable. Of course, it’s easy to take your mac and cheese to the next level by using homemade sauce and pasta, although that will certainly add to the overall preparation time. This might be a great project for the culinary minded, but for those on the go, it may be easier just to upgrade a classic box like the ones you grew up on. Whether you’re determined to make everything from scratch or just looking to jazz up the traditional recipe, here are three ways to upgrade your mac and cheese:
1. Go for real cheese
If you’re making your own sauce, cheese will certainly be a necessary ingredient in the recipe. However, for those going from the box, the cheese powder might not quite give you the taste and consistency you’d hoped for. Purchase a block or wedge of your favorite cheese and grate some up to be mixed in along with the rest of the ingredients. This will give you a much richer flavor without a lot of extra work.
2. Bake your mac and cheese
Baked mac and cheese is a great way to give this dish a fancier presentation and another layer of texture. Once you’ve made your mac and cheese, put it in an oven-safe dish and garnish with grated cheese and other desired toppings such as bread crumbs. The Pioneer Woman has a neat recipe for this, but if you’re cooking from the box, the important part is to bake your macaroni at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes. Ideally, this will give you a nice layer of crunch on the top of your baked macaroni.
3. Throw in some extras
It seems you can add almost anything to this classic dish. Common extras include hot dogs, tuna fish, broccoli, crab, mushrooms, hot sauce, onions and ketchup. These extras can be used to make themed dishes such as taco mac or buffalo chicken mac. The Mac + Cheese Cookbook even notes that you can add eggs and bacon to make a delicious breakfast mac and cheese, proving that this culinary treasure can be consumed at any time throughout the day.