Is it a house party or a family dinner? Well, it doesn’t really matter because there are a lot of mac and cheese bar ideas that could make that (any) occasion delightful and your guests will be glad they had mac n cheese.
Macaroni and cheese is a super creamy, cheesy and yummy party treat. It is also one of the world’s best comfort foods of all time, thus it makes for a good company when you are sitting on your favorite chair, and of course watching your favorite TV show.
Perhaps, you’ve been tasked with the job of setting up a food station and you are about to go nuts wondering about what will be perfect for your house party with friends or a quiet night in with the family? Then, worry no longer for mac and cheese bar has got you covered.
It could serve as either a main dish or a side dish filled with lots of creamy goodness that is enjoyed by virtually everyone. If you’re a cheese person, then you would know that mac and cheese is among the best cheese recipe, no one can even argue that.
Aside the fact that the meal is extremely easy to prepare, it offers you the opportunity to use your imagination and get really creative when it comes to the toppings.
Before I delve into the awesome art of making this dish, let’s have a little background on this dish.
Macaroni and Cheese Backdrop Story
I once came across an article that wrote that the first known written recipe for this dish came all the way from Italy. Don’t know how true that is but I couldn’t resist the urge of sharing.
Macaroni and cheese, otherwise known as mac and cheese or mac n cheese in American and Canadian English respectively, actually originated from England and is made up of cooked macaroni pasta with cheese sauce.
The cheese sauce is more commonly made with cheddar cheese or a combination of this with other cheese like parmesan cheese. Other ingredients like milk, flour, veggies, meat, and butter are added to the cheese to make the sauce.
Having gained fame, it is a highly regarded comfort food that can serve as a party food and is best eaten hot or warm. However, it is not the first dish that crosses people’s mind when they are thinking of a party food.
It’s quite understandable why it’s not, everyone wants a fancy dish and in that quest, we forget about just how awesome and fancy this dish can be. It might not be the first that comes to mind but it sure knows how to pave the way for a really delicious party.
Though the delicacy is preferably made with cheddar cheese, this cheese could be substituted entirely with other types of cheese if you are not a big fan of its tangy taste. Or you could try a mix of cheddar cheese with mozarella cheese, feta cheese or any cheese of your choice.
A great advantage of this meal is that it is flexible, that is, it can go with a lot of different toppings. If you can imagine the topping on this meal, then it pretty much can go, unless you’ve a reputation for thinking up the worst food combos ever.
And for all ye cheese carb lovers, this is one meal you just can’t resist eating.
If you have an upcoming party, a mac and cheese station is the perfect food station to set up. Just set up buffet tables with enticing dishes of rich, creamy macaroni pasta accompanied by a row of complimentary toppings.
You have no need to trouble yourself asking a lot of questions like:
Am I to make use of just one type of cheese?
Will a combo of different types of cheese taste great? Is it to be made on the stove or in the oven?
You really do not have to because that’s what this article is all about.
This dish can be made from scratch to finish in a skillet on a stove, it can also be broiled or baked, and that’s after it has been cooked to a few minutes shy of al dente on your stove. So yes, it can be made on a stove and in an oven afterwards, if you like. You can stick with just one kind of cheese but then going with a cheese combo is something you definitely should not miss out on.
To make your mac and cheese bar, there are a lot of things to put in mac and cheese aside the macaroni and cheese of course. From seasonings like salt to aromatic spices to flour and milk, the list is just endless and you will have to be a little patient for it. There are a thousand and one varieties of this meal and no one can expect less from a famous meal.
For your party size mac and cheese, your food station can consist of macaroni and cheese with buttery crumbs, buffalo mozzarella mac and cheese (a favourite) and a whole lot of mouthwatering toppings to go with it. It will be a great food delight and with a wide range of toppings available, every guest will be happy.
For a quick fix, there are packaged macaroni and cheese.
Preparing the boxed macaroni and cheese takes a shorter time and there are tons of brands available to pick from. These come in frozen or fresh forms but then again, food that doesn’t come in a box will always win the day.
Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
There are several recipes for mac and cheese, some of these recipes can make you never want to eat this meal again, while others will make you yearn for it every single day.
As earlier mentioned, you can make your macaroni and cheese entirely on the stove or you could go a little further by baking it or broiling it. Since this dish is best served hot or warm, it is advisable to use a slow cooker to keep it warm. Using a slow cooker is time-consuming but it will be worth the wait especially if you are not planning to eat your meal anytime soon.
For a bar, you could also try other macaroni shapes. It doesn’t have to be elbow shaped macaroni, other excellent choices are cavatappi and rotini.
- 500 gram of raw elbow macaroni pasta
- 170 gram of unsalted butter
- 1 and ½ cups of whole milk
- 2 and ½ cups of half and half milk
- ½ a tablespoon of salt
- ½ a teaspoon of black pepper
- ¼ a teaspoon of paprika (optional but highly recommended)
- ½ cup of all purpose flour
- 4 cups medium sharp cheddar cheese (this should be grated)
- 2 cups of gruyere cheese (also grated, a great substitute for this is Velveeta cheese)
- The oven should be preheated to 325F. Then, grease the baking dish too, a 3 quart baking dish would do just fine.
- Boil a pot of salted water. Add the elbow macaroni pasta and allow to cook.
- While your pasta is cooking, mix the grated cheddar and gruyere cheese together and divide into 3 portions. One for the sauce cheese (this should be the biggest portion) and two other equal portions.
- Remove from heat when the pasta is a minute away from being al dente. Drain and sprinkle with a little peanut oil to prevent sticking.
- Melt the butter in a pot or a large pan over medium heat, then add the flour and whisk until a consistent mixture is reached. Cook for a minute whilst stirring before gradually adding the milk (both the whole and half and half milk). Continue stirring as you add the milk to get an even mixture.
- Add the paprika and black pepper while stirring continuously. Then add your bigger portion of cheese and stir until the cheese melts to get a smooth uniform mixture. Taste for salt lest the sauce turns out bland.
- Remove from heat and mix the already drained pasta with the cheese sauce in a large bowl.
- Pour half of the pasta and cheese sauce mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle over it one portion of the mixed cheeses before topping it with the other half of the pasta and cheese sauce mixture. Then, sprinkle the last cheese portion over it as topping.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or more until your cheese topping is a little bit golden brown. Serve and enjoy!
However, when using a slow cooker, a little adjustment will be made and your meal would get ready in about 2 to 3 hours depending on the quantity.
Adding mustard powder or using a roux-based recipe can help keep your macaroni and cheese creamy even to the next day.
You can also decide to skip out the whole baking ordeal and just go ahead and dig into your meal. It tastes good too but come on, a little baking would change that good to great.
And remember, for a crunchier topping, broiling for about 5 minutes is all you need to do. Now, all your mac and cheese bar needs include a wide range of toppings, small serving bowls, forks and chilled drinks for your guests.
Mac and cheese Bar Toppings
You can have it all. Yes, you can, macaroni and cheese have enough provision for all your favorite toppings.
For a food station, you are going to need a wide variety of toppings, the best toppings as a matter of fact if you desire a food station no one is ever going to forget.
- Breadcrumbs, some persons actually consider this the best topping.
- BBQ sauce or hot sauce.
- Meat: this could be crumbled bacon, hamburger meat, grilled chicken, and even ham. Your meat could also be shredded or diced.
- Broccoli – add broccoli into your mac and cheese and no one will be able to say no to this delicious treat, not even a picky child.
- If you are a huge fan of vegetables, you could use green onions, red pepper and red onions. The onions could be fried to give a lovely crunchy fried topping. Diced tomatoes, sliced jalapenos and even sun dried tomatoes are equally great ideas to try out.
- If you are truly a cheese lover, then you might want to consider topping up your dish with a little extra cheddar, parmesan or mozarella cheese.
- Olives and grilled chicken cutlets are not left out. These topping ideas make it possible for you to transform your mac and cheese anytime. Think wide and think big and think of a sumptuous meal. When it comes to mac and cheese, most things can go. They not only add flavor to your meal, they add taste and more nutrient.
Other toppings to try out include sour cream, hot dogs, lobster, sunflower seeds (surprised, huh?), cauliflower crumble, buffalo sauce, and spinach.
All of these and many more will make your food station definitely memorable and absolutely delicious.
There are a lot of variations to this dish too.
One very delicious variation involves baking it in a casserole, instead of preparing the cheese sauce, it is prepared as layers of slices of cheese and pasta in a casserole.
Another variation is the deep fried macaroni and cheese. Others include the macaroni and cheese pizza and the macaroni pie when made in a pastry shell. These variations could definitely be featured in your food station. The more the merrier.
We all know macaroni pasta is high in carbohydrates, this will be a good energy source whenever you need it.
Aside that, cheese is high in fats. In all, macaroni and cheese is high in carbs and if you’re wondering what other nutritional benefits are present in this meal, know that the toppings offer you a great avenue to indulge yourself in veggies like broccoli, green pepper and onions, even your tomatoes and a whole lot of others.
Proteins are not left out. Delightful delicacies which supply you plant based proteins include peas and lentils. What about bacon, beef, chicken which can be shredded or diced as you so wish? All of these and a sip of really good red wine all combine to give your stomach and digestive juices a jolly ride.
So what are you waiting for?
Go along and prepare this food station for your house party. Your friends will love this dish and prolly ask you to always make it for them or better still ask for the recipe, if they are a fan of cooking. This easy mac and cheese bar is also a perfect snack for your movie and game nights. It’s a top-notch comfort and party food.