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5 Pointers for Prize-Worthy Mac and Cheese

Photo: Johnny Autry
Top mac-and-cheese chefs offer their tips for creating the perfect comfort food dish.

It's the ultimate in American comfort foods, the most ubiquitous of potluck dishes, and the cheesy king of nostalgia-inducing meals. From quick-cooking boxed varieties to treasured homemade family recipes, macaroni and cheese is a quintessential American favorite. There's even a mac and cheese festival held every year in Aspen, Colorado. While visiting the festival, I asked local chefs to share their tips for prize-winning mac and cheese:

  1. Use truffle oil. 
    It has an intense earthiness that wakes up otherwise ordinary mac and cheese.
  2. Make your own cheese sauce. 
    Some chefs use milk steeped with onion and bay leaf to bump up the flavor.
  3. Don’t overcook the macaroni. 
    Boil it just until al dente. It will cook more after it’s mixed with the sauce and baked in the oven.
  4. Use the macaroni cooking water in your sauce
    The starch from the pasta is a perfect thickener.
  5. Add beer. 
    It contributes a little bite and bitterness to counteract the richness of the sauce.

Try out our lightened-up version of Chef Tico Starr's double award-winning Truffled Mac and Cheese.