It’s everyone’s favorite comfort food and something we all grew up enjoying, so why not dedicate a whole day to celebrate macaroni and cheese? Get ready to boil the noodles and grate the cheese because July 14th is national Mac & Cheese Day. In the store, we’ll have a variety of specialty mac & cheese flavors available in chef-prepared. Pick your favorite or try them all. The gooey, cheesy goodness makes this ordinary summer day a special occasion.
You can also find several varieties in the pasta and freezer aisle with different noodles, sauces and flavor combinations. Or try our recipe to make the ultimate homemade macaroni and cheese that is sure to please everyone at your table. Get creative with different cheeses from the Cheese & Charcuterie case. Top your dish with bacon or stir in shredded chicken, browned sausage or green peas to make it a complete meal. You can even choose different pasta shapes like cavatappi, penne, farfalle or rotini.
The skies the limit when it comes to combinations and there are hundreds of ways to celebrate National Mac & Cheese Day!
Pasta: Since 1937 when Kraft first put elbow macaroni in a blue box, we’ve equated this shape with traditional mac & cheese. It’s perfect because the tubular center helps hold the sauce and keep the gooey cheese wrapped around the curves and crannies. Check the pasta aisle for gluten free options and other pastas that contain added fiber, protein and/or vegetables. Also, some of the Italian brands have other small -haped pastas that would be perfect for holding onto a rich, creamy cheese sauce. Although mac & cheese seems very American, there is proof that the original recipe did come from Italy.
Cheese: When picking cheese for your sauce, it’s best to combine a couple of different varieties. Pick one that has a strong flavor like aged cheddar, Gruyere or Manchego. Then pick a softer, mild cheese like gouda, provolone or mozzarella because they’re very creamy with a mild flavor. They also help to balance the sharp, grassy flavors that develop in aged cheese. Hard cheeses like Parmesan, Grana Padano and Pecorino have low moisture content and do not melt well. Use these in small amounts to sprinkle over the top or stir into a cheese that is creamier with less flavor.
Charcuterie: It may have started with hot dogs cut up in our mac & cheese, but I think our tastebuds have refined with age. Try browning some pancetta, bacon, Italian sausage or ham to stir into the noodles. Or cut into small pieces salami, prosciutto, speck or pepperoni and scatter over the top. Also, don’t forget the fresh breadcrumbs. Toss them in olive oil or brush with melted butter for extra browning.
Ultimate Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- 1 lb small pasta noodles
- 5 Tbs butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- 4 cups (1 lb) grated sharp cheddar
- 2 cups (1/2 lb) grated gouda, mozzarella or provolone
- 1 cup (1/4 lb) grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 lb bacon or pancetta, cooked and crumbled
- 4 slices of white bread, torn
- 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse in a colander and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly begin adding the milk. Continue to whisk to remove any clumps. Bring to a simmer and let thicken. Remove from heat.
Combine all the cheeses in a bowl. Slowly add the cheese to the sauce, a cup at a time, letting the cheese melt completely before adding more. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of cheese to scatter over the top.
Stir the salt and pepper into the sauce along with the bacon. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat. Pour into the prepared dish. Scatter the reserved cheese over the top. Place the torn bread in a bowl and add the olive oil. Stir to coat and spread the breadcrumbs over the pasta.
Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until sauce is bubbling and breadcrumbs are toasted and golden.