Kitchen Throwdown: Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese is one of those things. One of those foods you know has absolutely ZERO nutritional benefits, yet satisfies a person on so many levels. Like I mentioned in a previous post, the body wants what it wants, and who are we to deprive ourselves of our most insatiable desires? Pasta and cheese have to be two of my favorite ingredients, and even though I know they are both unhealthy choices – especially together – sometimes it is exactly what I need to satisfy my soul.

I have a lot of like minded friends who enjoy cooking and entertaining as much as I do. My friend, and fellow mac & cheese enthusiast, Macgregor and I woke up one Sunday morning with an unavoidable craving for mac & cheese. But not your blue box Kraft variety, or even Velveeta shells. I’m talking the homemade stuff, rich in texture and complex in flavor, cooked on the stovetop AND in the oven. The kind that would knock the socks of any cheese lover.

But Macgregor and I couldn’t agree on what type to make. But we both love a good challenge, so the solution was obvious… to have a Bobby Flay style throwdown. Although we had many friends helping with the prep and execution, Macgregor teamed up against Bree and I for the ultimate cook off. The rules were simple: both had to be completely different, but could overlap in one ingredient. We immediately agreed that both recipes could use Gruyere cheese. The differences between the recipes were many, below is an outline of the different components of each.

Macgregor’s Mac:

Elbow noodles

Gruyere (a lot)

Aged White Cheddar

Basic rou made of flour, milk, spices

Baked with homemade white breadcrumbs

Casey and Bree’s Mac:

Wagon wheel noodles



Tillamook Sharp Cheddar




Basic rou made of flour, milk, spices

Baked with panko breadcrumbs

For the most part, this recipes were created off hand. They were the combination of recipe research, magazine inspiration and creative freedom. Lots of measurements were eyeballed, and a few spontaneous decisions were made, but the result came out better than any of us could have expected.

wagon wheels

wagon wheels

roux + shredded cheese = sauce

roux + shredded cheese = sauce

grilled peppers


all the ingredients thickening together

pour it in the pyrex

side by side

mac&cheese cookoff 2012

mac&cheese cookoff 2012: Mac’s on top, mine on the bottom

The throwdown was considered a DRAW, but everyone agreed that wagon wheels were definitely the ideal noodle for homemade mac. The ridged texture and separated spaces within the wheel spokes proved to be the best to attract cheese and hold the complex flavors our recipe had, and applied to any other recipe would make each bite that much more delicious!


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