Macaroni and Cheese, better known as “mac n’ cheese,” is more than a satisfying comfort food. For many of us, it’s a memory of eating it as a child and then growing up to still love it. While a classic mac n’ cheese is great on its own, you’ll often find the noodles and cheese with other accompanying ingredients depending on where you are in the world.
Noodlin’ in the USA
Along the East Coast of the United States, especially in Maine, you’ll find Lobster Mac n’ Cheese just as much as you’ll find the original. It’s no wonder lobsters are added to mac n’ cheese since the crustacean brings in about $300 million in sales per year from up and down the Maine coast.
Throughout the Southern states, you won’t find many barbecue restaurants or soul food restaurants without mac n’ cheese served as side dish. The creamy, rich sauce is often served classic, with a sharp cheddar cheese, but it’s not uncommon to find barbecue meats added right to the mac.
In the Southwest, mac n’ cheese is often served with a heat that can be expected from the region’s cuisine. Cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses are blended with tomatoes, green chiles, and jalapeños.
In fine dining restaurants across the U.S., there’s sometimes an upscale flare such as truffle oil or seafood. Wherever you are in America, it’s not a shocker to see bacon loaded in the mac, and many times, mac n’ cheese is baked with a crispy crust consisting of bread crumbs and cheese.
But while mac n’ cheese seems as American as apple pie, it’s really not just an American dish.
Mac Goes Abroad
In Canada, you might find a puff pastry lining with the mac n’ cheese and sauce made of egg yolks, cream, and mustard, in addition to the cheese.
Älplermagronen is Switzerland’s version of mac n’ cheese with a creamy cheese sauce, macaroni and topped with roasted onions and sometimes potatoes.
In Spain, regional ingredients are used to give it a unique twist, like spicy chorizo, manchego cheese, and tomatoes.
Italy combines their rich, flavorful cheeses such as fontina, mozzarella, parmesan and parmigiano-reggiano to make a flavorful mac. Cooked ham and Italian parsley are also common additions.
Throughout Germany, Austria, and Hungary, a version of mac n’ cheese called Kase Spatzle is a favorite. Instead of the regular macaroni noodles, a regional staple is used, Spatzle, which are super small, tender egg noodles. The cheese can consist of edam, smoked gouda, and swiss, and onions are added as well.
I love taking inspirations from other states, regions, and cultures. Here are a few of my favorite mac n’ cheese recipes.
- 1 box of deluxe mac n’ cheese, or the same equivalent of homemade mac n’ cheese
- 7 ounces chorizo
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ¼ cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the mac n’ cheese as directed, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, about 7 minutes. As the sausage cooks, break it up with the spatula. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onion and jalapeno. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the jalapeno is softened, about 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the beaten eggs, garlic salt, black pepper, cooked mac n’ cheese, chorizo mixture, and ¼ cup of any type of Mexican cheese that will melt. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until the egg is fully cooked. Remove the cover, and bake an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the top has slightly browned.
- 1 Box Pasta (Penne, Farfalle, or Rigatoni)
- 6 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups skim milk
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 ½ cup grated white cheddar cheese
- 1 ½ cup grated black pepper cheese
- 1 palmful dried parsley
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 KRAFT Fresh-Take seasoning package, Southwest Three Cheese
Cook your pasta in 6 cups of boiling salted water for 6 minutes, then drain. Then, you’ll need to create the cheese sauce.
In a hot pan, melt butter. Once melted, stir in flour until creamy, stir vigorously, allowing the flour to cook out and the mixture to brown a little; as it does, stir in red-pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Incorporate the milk, a little bit at a time, keeping the mixture creamy. Keep stirring! Once you’ve added all the milk, add in the sour cream, continuing to stir until everything is incorporated. Add the cheese, stirring until all the cheese is melted. Once the cheese is melted, remove from heat and add in the parsley, salt, and pepper.
In a 13×9 glass baking dish, add in the pasta, and the cheese mixture. Spread the Fresh Take mix evenly across the top of the mac and cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes in a pre-heated 325° oven.
When you remove the mac and cheese from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes. Careful, as it will be very hot.
Photos by author except lead photo by Rick Audet.