Somewhere along the line, “cheesy” got a bad rap. So many things in life that once were lovely and charming have now been pinned with that disdainful label—like the Hallmark card from grandma, which is actually very sweet; or John Cusack and his boombox, which are seriously emotionally stirring; or Christmas pageants, which really do put us in the holiday spirit. Because really, what’s so bad about cheesy? Especially when cheesy is the primary feature of a dinner, as in macaroni and cheese. When we pull a fragrant, bubbling casserole from the oven in the middle of winter, there is no question that cheesy is a good thing.
To put diners in the cheesiest of moods, here are five recipes for the perfect mac and cheese:
Macaroni and Cheese by Barbara Kafka This barely takes more time than cracking open that blue box and ripping open that envelope of orange powder.
Baked Horseradish Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese by David Burke and Judith Choate This is a classic macaroni and cheese with just a bit of a bite from the horseradish to offset the richness.
Macaroni Gratin by Benoît Guichard Inspired by Benoît Guichard, Joël Robuchon’s protégé and chef at the famed Jamin restaurant in Paris, this take on macaroni and cheese is, like so many French dishes, embellished by the enrichment of a golden cheese crust and the added sharpness of fresh chives and coarsely ground black pepper.
Chicken Mac and Cheese by Sara Foster For all its charms, mac and cheese is missing one thing: protein. With the addition of chicken to this mac and cheese, you’ve got more of the basic food groups covered.
Baked Pasta with Gruyere and Mushrooms by Rick Rodgers If eating pasta covered in cheese sauce makes you feel guilty for not eating your vegetables, try this variation made with mushrooms. And just like that, the guilt is gone.
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