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macaroni and cheese big time competition

Family macaroni and cheese championships coming up. Any tips, tricks or secrets you'd like to share? Greatly appreciated.

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  1. You'll find a chorus of Chowhounders talking about great mac 'n' cheese here:

      1. re: flipkeat

        that looked outstanding will have to give it a try

      2. Make sure you include Gruyere cheese and some parmesan cheese, a little dry mustard and some cayenne pepper.

        1. topping: fresh wheatberry bread crumbs strean on top of parmesan topping. Nice texture contradt. use fresh wholewheat crumbs, never "dried, seasoned" in the shaker can.

          2 Replies
          1. re: toodie jane

            I like mine with a bite, so I include a little bit of gorgonzola and both dijon mustard and worcestershire sauce.

            1. re: Megiac

              Just made mac and cheese the other day and added good quality horseradish for the first time. It made for a very tasty dish.

          2. I like this Paula Deen recipe. I add lots of bacon. Glorious.


            1. I've been wanting to try Delilah Winder's famous recipe. I'd halve or even quarter it though as it seems like a huge amount.


              1. I think that the best recipe that I have tried is "over the rainbow" mac and cheese by Patti Labelle...You can find it on oprah's website...

                6 Replies
                1. re: jinet12

                  Here's Patti's http://www.oprah.com/foodhome/food/re...

                  I do see similarity between Delilah's and Patti's recipes--southern style baked Mac & cheese pies (which I love) as opposed to the "kraft" mac & cheese style (which I detest).

                  1. re: Ora

                    i like the looks of this recipe, lotsa cheese and no roux/bechemel.

                    then again, when you look at the fat/cholesterol.....oh well, it's a once and a while splurge!

                    1. re: hitachino

                      Wow, that's a lot of butter!
                      I haven't found the rigth M&C yet, btu I think I want to stay away from Velveeta. If I want Velveeta (which I am not opposed to) I'd just get the Velveeta Shells and Cheese we still eat occasionally.
                      If I do homemade I want it to be different.

                      1. re: Covert Ops

                        with all that cheese in that recipe, i doubt you'd miss the velveeta if you left it out ;o

                        1. re: hitachino

                          This type of baked Mac&Cheese pie-type recipe is oceans apart from that awful Velveeta in a box stuff--no comparison really. Also, the type of cheese can be substituted. I think the Velveeta adds creaminess, other cheeses can work too, such as Fromage d'Affoinois or a high quality cheddar etc.

                    2. re: Ora

                      Another link to Over-the-Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese by Patti LaBelle


                  2. No matter which recipe you use, I always have success by saving some of the pasta water and adding it to the mac and cheese. You might think that you have too much liquid but instead will end up with a very moist and creamy mac and cheese.

                    1. Finish it with white truffle oil (or use truffles!)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tdo ca

                        Definitely. Truffle oil is the big secret to a luxurious mac n cheese.

                      2. Add just a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg to the white sauce: it'll give it that extra bit of heavenly depth...

                        I made a really fab mac n' cheese dish with shells instead of elbow mac (so, ok it's not technically mac n' cheese anymore), butternut squash, sage, shallots, cream cheese and goat cheese. Oh, and nutmeg too, of course. :) No white sauce though since the creamcheese and goat cheese are very creamy (I used two cheeses because I didn't have enough of the goat.) This dish impressed the brother-in-law chef so it's a definite keeper!

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: david t.

                            Agreed..the best are a combination of three or four cheeses

                            1. re: david t.

                              per Anna Thomas' recipe, I use Fontina and Gruyere with Parmesan on top. I'll have to try the gorganzola. Her Bechamel (white) sauce uses lots of thyme and bay leaves, and I add a good grating of nutmeg. I'd like to try adding some Spanish smoked paprika to the sauce--smokey, and the color might be nice.

                          2. There is a FABULOUS Emeril Mac and Cheese recipe out there.... I think it was originally on Oprah too. You have to use his spice mix that he calls "essence." I think the key is to buy the best quality ingredients you can. Also, I would use something other than macaroni to make it fancier... like mini penne.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Bidnezz

                              I love using cavatappi. De Cecco makes it.

                              1. re: walker

                                I use cavatappi also. It's ridged so adds a little texture and larger and longer than the elbows. I think it makes a much better mac and cheese.

                                I've been using Ruth Reichl's recipe and it's quite good but I still think there's better to be made.

                              2. re: Bidnezz

                                I agree that there are interesting alternatives to the 'elbow' and some will provide a better surface to 'grab' the cheese.

                                1. re: serious

                                  so, serious, when is the mac fest? give us a report--hope all 'contestants' are required to give out their recipes!

                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                    First Timers Win Top Prize & Chef’s Award in 2nd Annual Mac & Chee’ Championship; Controversy abound in the Competition.Upper West Side, Manhattan – Bacon was fried, cheese odor filled the air and arteries were clogged, but at the end of the day our host claimed top prize in the 2nd Annual Mac & Chee’ Championship yesterday. After receiving the highest overall score of 7.2 for his cheesy, prosciutto, peas and penne creation, host revealed his shock, “I can’t believe I won, this is the first time I’ve ever made macaroni and cheese!”
                                    Many traditionalists were offended that this dish was the winner. Chef of mac and chee’ #3 was later heard mumbling under his breath, “That’s just a pasta quattro formage primavera, its not even real mac & cheese. Next year I’m just gonna put one piece of penne next to a delicious meatball covered with parmesan and call it mac and cheese.” #3 was then seen hovering in the corner and sucking his thumb.
                                    This year’s competition was not without its controversy. A new category created for this years contest, the Honorary (the writer's name here) Chef’s Award, given to the best mac and cheese as voted on by the chefs, was awarded to mac and chee’ #1 maker (Serious). The award was named for the first champion of the competition and was given to (writer's) mother in law. Said (writer), “since I couldn’t vote for my own masterpiece, I gave my vote to the next best thing, (Serious') lovely cheesy creation.” Surprisingly, (Serious') entry finished in last place in the more important judges’ vote, with a 5.1 score. After receiving the necklace of cellentani, Serious vented her frustration to the press, "expletive. Getting the approval of my fellow chef’s is the only thing that matters. What do those judges know about anyway? After all, they picked my brother’s horrible creation as the best!”
                                    The controversy did not end there. In a flaw in the voting process that the Mac Committee has vowed to fix next year, the 1 to 10 system will be replaced with an overall system of ranking the dishes. The scoring was flawed, one judge reversing the scoring “I didn’t read the rules.” This alone could’ve swung the entire process. Acknowledging the error, a committee spokesman, said “this is just a sloppy, archaic process that will be corrected immediately.” She then went back to eating the food straight out of the pans.
                                    Making appearances in this year’s competition were meats and vegetables. Three dishes contained a pork product. Two dishes had peas and one entry had a medley of onions and roasted shitake mushrooms. Maybe latter creation was a smart move as participant's veggie friendly creation moved her from a “don’t ever make this again” finish in 2006 to a 2nd place finish in 2007. Competitor said afterward, “this is a victory for all animals everywhere and I will not stop adding veggies until I claim the title and testing on monkeys ceases.”
                                    Forced to go back to the drawing board for next year will be last year’s champ (the writer). After confidently walking in to the apartment with his entourage in tow and his crown on his head, He finished in 5th out of 6 spots. He was visibly upset, sulking then shoving photographers out of his path before doing his best to keep a good face in front of his new family. He said later, “Of course this is troubling, but not surprising that the winner's family, (writer's new family) bound together to keep me in check in my marriage to their favorite niece.”
                                    But at the end of the day, no one can be upset when they’ve eaten one mac and cheese, let along 6 wonderful mac and cheeses. The field was as tough as its ever been and led to a early retirement announcement by winner. “I had beginner’s luck this year, and will hang up my apron.” Will he stick to his word or will he defend his crown next year? Only time will tell.

                              3. Have made the Baked Pasta with Pancetta from Everyday Italian and it's DELISH! Keep up posted on the competition. Has it passed?? Winning recipe PLEASE

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: dpnpt

                                  We tried something called "Really The Best Ever Macaroni and Cheese" from the Los Angeles Times (came out last year, sorry, can't remember the exact date). It takes a little time and effort, but it really IS the best ever - to die for. So rich and creamy.

                                  1. re: aurora50

                                    LA Times "Really The Best Ever Macaroni and Cheese" Recipe (scroll down to the second to the last recipe): http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                    1. re: Ora

                                      Thanks for finding it, Ora!! It really is a great recipe.

                                      1. re: Ora

                                        heh, i started reading that and was like HUH? espresso and green cardamom!! in mac n cheese???? then i realized the correct recipe was way further down on the page......

                                  2. I make the recipe in the Cook's Illustrated cookbook "The Best Recipe". I like the mini shells personally. Basically you make a custard base from eggs, condensed milk, dry mustard, hot sauce, salt , pepper. Add the milk mixture to buttered noodles, then add the shredded cheese. I like sharp cheddar and usually throw in whatever remnants are in the fridge. 2 days ago it was cheddar and pecorino and I used mini-penne.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Ela0427

                                      Condensed milk? Or evaporated milk? Just curious- I thought the condensed milk always had sugar in it.
                                      I've heard that Cook's Illustrated recipe is good- do you have a link for it?

                                      1. re: TropiChef

                                        You put sweetened condensed milk in key lime macaroni. Evaporated goes with the cheese. :)