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How to Make the Crispiest, Dreamiest Macaroni and Cheese

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When Mick and Keith wrote, "You can't always get what you want," our thoughts wandered to the corner brownie, the center of the skillet cookie, and the perfectly golden, but too-quickly-devoured, top of the macaroni and cheese.

But as Amanda Hesser shows us in her Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese, the crispy, cheesy top of the pasta doesn't have to be as fleeting as you once thought.

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Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese
Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese

To give every bite of mac and cheese the perfect crunch-squish ratio (50:50, according to Amanda), she bakes the pasta on a sheet pan, borrowing techniques from fellow crunch aficionados:

In Cucina Simpatica, pasta is par-cooked, then combined with cream, cheese and other seasonings and baked at 500° F. The high temperature finishes the pasta quickly and toasts the tips on the top layer—a memorable detail. [Jeffrey] Steingarten's gratin involves roasting thinly sliced potatoes and cream on a baking sheet so that the entire gratin is crisp and handsomely browned. And Melissa Clark spreads her kugel in a baking sheet, achieving a predominantly crunchy texture. Back in the macaroni and cheese lab, I combined these three ideas by par-cooking the pasta, folding it together with a few cheeses, spreading it on a baking sheet, and finishing it in a 475° F oven.

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Baking Sheet Macaroni and Cheese

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Serves 6
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1 pound pasta spirals (or other small shape)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, plus more as garnish
  • Salt
  • 2/3 cup whole milk

Are you all for the crispy top or the creamy center of the macaroni and cheese? Tell us in the comments below!


Tags: macaroni and cheese, cheddar, food tip