Macaroni and Cheese. If you don’t live in the United States, you’ve probably seen it in films, TV shows, or cartoons. If you are from the US, chances are you really don’t need an introduction. This is a meal that every household had on the table at one point or another.
But what is the history of it? And more importantly, how do you make it? Well, while there are plenty of recipes on the internet, the main question is, what kind of cheese to use? And that’s what we’ll try to answer right here, right now. But before that, some mac n’ cheese history for your pleasure.
While this legendary dish’s actual origin isn’t known exactly, there are a couple of versions and tall talkies that feel closer to the truth than others. Italy is most likely the place of origin since there have been numerous recipes that hail back to the thirteenth century.
But how did it make its way to the USA? One version of the sorry says that American Mac and Cheese actually started as a casserole in New England. Then again, it is known as Macaroni Pudding in Connecticut. But our favorite by far is the Thomass Jefferson version.
That’s right, one of the founding fathers could be responsible for bringing the old mac and cheese to the US. It is said that when returning from Italy, Mr. Jefferson brought back two things. Some Macaroni with melted Parmesan on top of it, and a pasta machine. Put it all together, and here we are centuries later, trying to figure out what kind of cheese is best for the recipe. What a ride it has been.
Now let’s get down to it. Here are eleven kinds of cheese that we think might be your possible favorites in this glorious pasta combination.
Our List of Best Cheeses for Mac&Cheese
Of the bat, we got a controversial pick on our hands. While the idea of a fresh cheese like Mozzarella in a mac and cheese dish might be a horrendous one for some, there are plenty of people who swear by this combination. We’ve kept our hands off the Feta and other white giants of the industry because, well, some things just shouldn’t be made.
Mozzarella is actually not too bad of choice for melting purposes, since its melting point starts at around 54 degrees Celsius. The taste may be mild for some, but the melted creamy texture goes quite well with the pasta and some butter, but even if you decide to go for the low-fat version and skip the butter, you’d still be in for a good meal.
Now we go for some aged goodness. Brie is a french aged cheese named after the region of France that it’s from, and it’s a great addition to pasta. It’s a stronger taste, which again, is a great counterpart to the pasta.
Now to some, it might not seem like the obvious choice, considering that it’s a cheese famous for its white molded crust. But that crust is, for some, the best part of the cheese! The taste is an unexpected added kick in the dish and a perfect choice for gourmets. This particular cheese also adds to the taste with its soft texture, which melts as soon as it is touched by the other foods involved.
Goat Cheese – Chévre
Now a giant of the industry – the Goat Cheese, a.k.a. “Chévre.” This is a classic that has been with us for the last five thousand years. It comes in many shapes, sizes, and textures.
This last part could be a tricky one for your Mac and Cheese dish. You see, not all goat cheeses are going to be great for the old’ M&C. You probably want a type that is on the soft texture side or just one that has a good, low melting point. All in all, you’re not gonna make a mistake by choosing the Chévre.
This one may not come to your mind when you think of Mac and Cheese, but considering it’s another version of the first cheese to be used on the dish, we can pretty much guarantee its effectiveness. Now, what is Parmigiano Reggiano? Just like its brother, the glorious Parmesan, it’s a classic that has a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). If you stumble upon this term on the label of your cheese, you found the good stuff.
You may be thinking, well, isn’t this just Parmesan, what’s so different? Well, Parmigiano Reggiano basically has the title of the King Of Cheeses. It is an older version of Parmesan, made by monks with a special recipe. The reason why it’s not first on this list is that it’s not as common as the Parmesan, so hunting it down could be too much work for those who are just trying to go for a simple version of Mac and Cheese. But if you happen to stumble upon the king, get yourself some true old-school M&C.
Another classic on the list, but this time the Swiss made it. Now when you think of swiss cheese, you might be imagining a Tom&Jerry-like giant triangle of yellow cheese full of holes, but that’s just one type. Switzerland is famous for many kinds of cheese, and Gruyére is definitely one of the better ones.
It’s a hard yellow aged cheese that’s famous for its versatile tastes. We say versatile because Gruyére could be a completely different cheese depending on how old it is. If you buy a younger block, you’ll have a mouthful of a creamy and nutty flavor that will most definitely complement the pasta in your dish. And if you choose to get a finely aged one, the stronger crumbling beauty will surely not disappoint. It’s famous for being sweet yet salty, with a strong but not dominant taste, so we can assure you that if you try and put it in some Macaroni, you may find your new favorite version of Mac and Cheese.
Fontina, like many other kinds of cheese on this list, has a status of PDO. It is an Italian cheese that has been made in the Aosta Valley in the Alps for nine hundred years. You’ll know you’ve found it if you see a Consortium Stamp on it with a picture of the Matterhorn with a ” Fontina” script in front of it.
The original cheese is famous for a quite pungent and intense flavor, with a brown aged crust on the outside and a creamy pale texture on the inside. The flavor is a nutty and woody sensation that gets better with age.
If you’re a fan of the taste but find it a bit too strong, other options are not from the region, so don’t be surprised if they have a slightly different name on the packaging. These versions are usually milder, but pack the same kick the original has. Whatever you choose, your Macaroni will be grateful, and you will be too.
You know it, you love it, it’s the Gouda. One of the most famous cheeses in the world and one that will go hand in hand with the Macaroni in your dish. This is a mild-flavored cow milk cheese that can be bought young or aged.
The term Gouda actually doesn’t refer to the cheese but refers to the cheese-making process. This is why it can be found in many forms and factors. The industrial version is nutty but very mild compared to the farmhouse goudas, that are sweet and pack a much bigger punch flavor-wise.
Cheese crystals are also a must if you’re getting the old stuff, and they are a great addition to your Mac and Cheese. Crunchy parts of your melted creamy dish will put this in your top five recipes for sure. Heck, it made its way into ours, didn’t it?
Finally, we made it to the top dogs. Cheddar. In particular, white Cheddar this time around. There are many kinds of Cheddar, but we’ll focus on two in particular for this list. White Cheddar, and we must make this clear, the same as yellow or orange Cheddar. The color itself depends on the diet of the cow from which the milk came from. We wrote an in-depth article on the Cheddar color subject, make sure to check it out.
It is one of the most popular cheeses globally, and chances are, you have a block in the fridge as you’re reading this. Famous for its mild and nutty flavor (depending on its age), it is a perfect melted companion to your Macaroni. Since it is so famous, you’ve probably already tried the combination. But hey, why fix it if it ain’t broken.
The second Cheddar on the list, and the one that we prefer, is Sharp Cheddar. A minute ago, we said that this cheese’s color doesn’t give you much information about what kind it is. But if you see the term “Sharp” on the packaging, that changes the game a bit.
Sharp cheddar means aged cheddar. And this is a cheese that ages like fine wine. The taste is spicy, intense, earthy, and nutty. But don’t worry, it won’t be too strong if you’re into the milder versions. It is crumbly, orange, and full of cheese crystals that will add a sweet yet salty surprise to your Macaroni. We can’t recommend this combination enough.
Before we go ahead and get to the number one spot, we have to mention a combination that’s not talked about enough. Sure, you can choose any of these cheeses and have a great dish on the table, but don’t run away from the idea of mixing some.
After all, many of these cheeses come from the same animal. Their differences come from the style with which they’re made. One of our favorite ones is Sharp Cheddar and Gruyére, but you are free to experiment with any of the ones on this list. Always remember to keep an open mind when making Mac and Cheese. After all, that’s an essential part of cooking any dish.
Finally, we’re at number one. Parmesan. The Italian King of Cheese. Remember when we said that Thomas Jefferson brought Mac and Cheese back from his travels? Well, Parmesan was in that dish, and to this day, it’s the best combination.
It’s aged to perfection, grates like a pro, it has beautiful cheese crystals, and crumbles entirely with the rest of it. And yes, Parmesan has a PDO status, and buying that original version will, without a doubt, give the best results.
But the other Parmesan versions will do the trick just as well. If you’re going to make some Mac and Cheese, why not make the original? The people who chose the recipe probably knew what they were doing.