Macaroni and cheese may be a staple when it comes to kids’ diets, but this Thanksgiving, why not make a homemade, over-the-top side dish that will take the cheesy goodness to the next level? Mac and cheese can be creamy, spicy and when it’s done just right, simply delicious.
Chef, author and restaurateur Deborah VanTrece makes a Praline and Bacon Mac and Cheese that puts her own spin on the dish that women in the 1960’s made with commodity cheese to serve a lot of people cheaply.
VanTrece previously explained to TODAY that James Hemings, the chef and slave of Thomas Jefferson, is credited for introducing America to what we call macaroni and cheese. “Originally it was considered a refined, upper-crust dish. As the dish gained popularity and its ingredients became more accessible to the average person, it became more of a comfort food for the masses, rather than a dish reserved for the rich,” she said.
“One of my best secrets for creating a mouth-watering mac and cheese dish is to season the pasta itself,” VanTrece told TODAY Food. “I like to combine a little salt, white pepper, onion powder and garlic powder together, then sprinkle and toss the pasta. Also, I like my ratio of sauce to pasta to be a little heavier on the sauce side. That helps to ensure that the texture will stay sumptuously creamy.”
Praline and Bacon Mac and Cheese by Deborah VanTrece
When it comes to which cheese to use, VanTrece said part of the fun is experimenting.
“I start with basic cream cheese for the base and then let my imagination do the rest,” she said. “I usually settle on three to four combinations that will complement each other with similar taste profiles.”
As for more ways to customize your mac and cheese, VanTrece encourages home cooks to try new things.
“When it comes to add-ins I have used anything from sauteed vegetable combinations, to pork belly, to seafood,” she said. “Mac and cheese is a comfort dish that can be as simple or as extravagant as you’d like.”
Read on for some more macaroni and cheese recipes to try so you can put that “liquid gold” as VanTrece calls it on your Thanksgiving table this year.
Southern-Style Mac and Cheese by Kardea Brown
Kardea Brown’s take on this dish is a custard-style baked macaroni and cheese with eggs, heavy cream and sharp cheddar cheese that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Masala Mac and Cheese by Samah Dada
This recipe uses cashews as a base to create a surprisingly thick and luscious sauce — creamy, luscious, rich but also vegan and dairy-free. This mac and cheese won’t disappoint.
6-Cheese Truffle Mac and Cheese by Derrick Turton
The six rich cheeses and fragrant truffle oil elevate this simple dish into something really special.
Siri Daly’s Slow-Cooker Mac and Cheese by Siri Daly
No need to make a roux for this recipe — just toss everything into the slow cooker!
Brûléed Pumpkin Mac and Cheese by Danny Seo
The addition of pumpkin purée makes this a fun twist on a classic. Insider tip: It’s better to undercook rather than overcook this recipe so it stays creamy!
Shipwreck Creamy Mac and Cheese by Jose Aleman
Generous amounts of milk, heavy cream and two delicious cheeses make this dish absolutely irresistible.
Everything Bagel Mac and Cheese by Molly Yeh
The addition of cream cheese in the cheese sauce of this recipe gives Molly Yeh’s bake some extra tang. Tons of everything bagel seasoning gives it the perfect texture.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Bake by Donal Skehan
Cauliflower gratin meets mac and cheese in this amazing hybrid you have to taste to believe.
Shaq’s Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese by Lucille O’Neal
Mama knows best when it comes to this dish that uses three different kinds of cheese and crunchy cheese crackers on top!
Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese by Alejandra Ramos
Alejandra Ramos suggests stirring in all of the toppings or for a DIY option, serving the pasta with the toppings on the side so everyone can make up his or her own bowl.