A Very Scientific Evaluation of the Best Mac & Cheese

I went back through my blog archives recently and I came to the conclusion that this blog is not nearly as grown-up and mature as I had hoped it would become. My critique of “Avatar” drew a little attention, but that was in between complaints about the casting of “Last Airbender” and photos of my new haircut. And you know what? Whatever. I turn twenty-three next month. I’m wearing an old sorority t-shirt and sweats and watching “Twilight Zone” (it’s a Shatner episode!) while eating macaroni & cheese. Someday I will be an illustrious author with very important things to say about writing, or an international programs professional with very important things to say about multiculturalism, or heck, a mother with very important things to say about how on earth to raise kids. (Assuming of course that I figure it out.) But in the meantime, I am a secretary with not much important to say about anything, except select topics like the next Marvel movie or what Oregon’s weather is like.

I have also decided to advise you all on the merits of macaroni & cheese.

A few weeks ago I thought I would do a test-run of some possible work lunches, but in the sampling phase, I didn’t make any earthshattering discoveries. Everything I sampled was just sort of okay, which was to be expected. I may still finish it someday, possibly in a two-parter with desserts (someone suggested a Jello product and hey, I’m up for sampling Jello in the name of science), but not today.

Today we’re going to talk about the best food in the world.

Hopefully most of you grew up on Kraft mac & cheese. Creepy orange powder, milk, butter, and little noodles came together in gooey cheesy goodness, creating a product guaranteed to please even the choosiest of five-year-old palates. Somehow, it was even better reheated the next day.

Eventually our taste buds expanded to accommodate different pasta shapes – twists were the awesomest – and different varieties of powdered cheese. But somewhere along the line, we began to realize that grown-ups did not eat macaroni & cheese. Grown-ups ate stuff like pasta bolognese and fettucine alfredo, delicious dishes to be sure, but lacking the warming, tangy wholesomeness of macaroni formaggio. One does not have to pair a fine wine with that box of Kraft. One simply dumps in the ingredients, boils, and props their fuzzy-slippered feet up to enjoy a big bowl of warm cheesy childhood memories.

But then the day came when the classic Kraft macaroni & cheese just…didn’t quite cut it. (No cheese pun intended but I am totally keeping it there.) By now our tastebuds were acclimated to real cheese, and that powdered stuff clearly wasn’t it. Fortunately, there were thousands of options waiting on the shelves for the more adventuresome, and I have sampled most of them. Savor your macaroni & cheese with pride, my friends, and if you have a favorite, share with me!

Kraft Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese was one of my staple foods in college. The box makes enough for 2.5 Laura-sized meals, and you know how much I love leftovers. (I really love leftovers.) No neon powder here – just a big pouch of orange cheese goo. Also questionable, but much more satisfying to stir. Results in a tangy, gooey, intensely cheesy mac. (And apparently you can get it on Amazon. What a world.)

Annie’s Shells & Real Aged Cheddar. Two ways to make any pasta dish instantly classier: use a weird shape, and an unnecessarily fancy cheese. Need parmesan? Seek out the finest 24-month aged parm in the land. On “Iron Chef” and looking for extra points? Throw in some buffalo ricotta (and be sure to pronounce it “ri-coh-ta” or they will spot the imposter). Tired of cheddar? Enter aged cheddar! And on shells, no less! No mere macaroni for this discerning palate. As an added bonus, all Annie’s products are some combination of all-natural, vegan, or organic. They were even worthy of being shipped to Ireland when I was homesick for mac & cheese (thanks Mom!). (See also Annie’s Shells & White Cheddar.)

Farmhouse Four Cheese Pasta. This one takes a little longer to prepare, but like Annie’s, it’s all natural. Plus it gets more classiness points for having unusual cheese (bleu! But it’s not at all overpowering.). Very mellow taste, more like actual cheese than the Kraft varieties.

-If you’re out and about, the mac & cheese at Bainbridge Island BBQ is fun and delicious. It comes with cornflakes and Goldfish sprinkled on top! Oh, and the pulled pork is pretty delectable, too.

Annie’s Organic Peace Pasta & Parmesan. Okay, yes, this list is inundated with Annie’s, but that’s because they’re the best! This variety is even organic! My mom stuck these in my Easter basket. Kevin did not really see the need for peace-sign-shaped pasta, because he is a realistic and logical guy, but he agreed it was quite tasty.

-Lastly, if you find yourself needing to impress visitors with something that doesn’t come out of a box, look no further than Ina Garten’s recipe for Penne with Five Cheeses. It has basil! Romano cheese! Fresh mozzarella! And half a stick of butter! (The comments are probably worth reading, though, because even the Barefoot Contessa apparently isn’t perfect.) This is on my list of dishes to make when I’m rich enough to buy all the really nice cheeses.

And to close, a macaroni fail: Easy Mac. Full points for ease of prep, but the taste is seriously lacking, and there’s no way anything that fluorescent is safe to ingest.

Oh, and:

‘Cuz they’re Mac and Cheese.



4 thoughts on “A Very Scientific Evaluation of the Best Mac & Cheese

    • That sounds AMAZING. I’ve heard good things about the Deschutes Brewery but I haven’t gotten to eat there yet.

  1. Easy Mac. Is. Nasty. I tried it freshman year when my roommate bought some, didn’t like it, and tried to pawn like a thousand little cups off on me. I’ll never eat that stuff again.

    Annie’s is the love of my life, though.

    • It sounded so promising, too. Instant macaroni & cheese? In a little cup? Huzzah! But oh the disappointment. I was so excited to get a real kitchen junior year so I could cook proper pasta.

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