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Side or starter with macaronic and cheese?

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I'm making Martha Stewart's cheddar and gruyere mac and cheese as a main dish. there will also be a green salad.

Any ideas for an additional vegetable side, or perhaps a vegetable soup? I'm struggling with what to serve that will help balance out the heaviness of the main dish.

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  1. What about some greens? My CSA gave out a great recipe for Catalan-style chard, which might go well. You clean/de-stem a pound of chard, sauté it with olive oil and garlic, then add a handful each of golden raisins and toasted pine nuts, cooking a bit more until the raisins are softened.

    2 Replies
    1. re: operagirl

      ditto. greens are classic with mac. pretty much anything green and slightly bitter goes nicely. other ideas: roasted Brussels sprouts, arugula or spinach salad (maybe with cornbread croutons...a nice homage to the south...if that would work?), sauteed broccoli(ni), maybe a French green bean salad in vinaigrette?

      1. re: ChristinaMason

        i vote sharp greens too. watercress or chard with lemon. garlic and olive oil; radicchio, endive or trevisano grilled, then doused with fresh orange or tangerine juice and garlic infused evoo.

    2. I think with something rich and creamy, it is nice to have something tart like a green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cassoulady

        I also like the salad with mac n cheese. I'm addicted to argula with good olive oil, lemon juice, shaved Parm, s&p (thanks for the millionth time to MMRuth).

      2. I agree with a nice salad.

        For soup, maybe a gazpacho or a creamless tomato soup.

        You could also do a mixture of greens (mustard, kale, and spinach) cooked with garlic and onions. Simple and flavorful, but slightly bitter to balance and cut the richness of the mac'n'chese.

        1. I think a Caesar salad would be nice with it

          1 Reply
          1. re: Reed422

            also not to be nit-picky, but a starter or side with cheese would just be dairy over-kill for me.

          2. I don’t mean to be rude or nit-picky, but when is Macaroni and Cheese considered a main dish? Is this a common practice?

            4 Replies
            1. re: RetiredChef

              I would say that really rich, homemade mac and cheese -- made with a bechamel, tons of cheese, baked, crusty, etc. -- would be a perfectly good main course. Of course, it also makes a good accompaniment to plenty of meat-based mains.

              As to whether it's a common practice or not, I couldn't say.

              1. re: RetiredChef

                Mac and cheese with protein added (Spam, Sausage, Lobster, Bacon, BBQ Pork, hot dogs) is routinely used as a main dish in households with Children who limit their palates. Or in households with adults who grew up using it as a main dish, like mine.

                1. re: RetiredChef

                  Macaroni and Cheese is always a main dish in my house. Not sure why it would be an appetizer or side dish... it's got tons of cheese and it's a heavy dish. I couldn't imagine eating mac and cheese and then eating a heavier main course.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    There's a restaurant in NYC that only serve M&C. So, yes.

                  2. You stated you already intend to serve a green salad, which I think is a good choice. You did specify whether yyou are serving that as sort of a preliminary salad course, or with your mac and cheese. You might consider serving it first. Either way the only thing that really sprung to my mind were some carrots, lightly steamed or sauteed, simply dressed. If I were a guest at your dinner, I'd like the variety of colors and appreciate a simple veggie with a heavy comforting main dish. I'm sure there are other simple, colorful veggies that would work as well just carrots jumped to my mind.

                    While I really like vegetable soups, I think even a light vegetable soup might be too filling in this instance, but that's just me.

                    Another possible option is to beef up your salad a bit instead of offering another dish. Maybe add some fruit (pears or apples would be nice) or other elements (beets could be good) to add interest to your meal that way.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cookie44

                      color is important, but so is texture. with such a soft main, i'd like something very crunchy to go with.

                    2. Update of what was served:

                      provencal lentil soup with vegetables (small bowl -- served as first course)
                      Macaroni & cheese (made with bechamel, gruyere, cheddar and breadcrumbs
                      green salad with fruit and blue cheese crumbles (brought by a guest)
                      sauteed cherry tomatoes with basil

                      the mac and cheese was (as always) filling, delicious and even almost elegant.
                      the soup was a great counterpoint -- healthy, full of fiber and almost no fat. the sauteed tomatoes were simple and added good acidity to the meal. If I had made a salad myself I wouldn't have added cheese, but no one minded at all.

                      Thanks for all the suggestions!