Introduction: Crunchy Mac & Cheese

What do peanut butter and macaroni and cheese have in common? There is a tiny battle being waged to determine which is superior: creamy or crunchy. I fall pretty squarely in the crunchy congregation. I know that I am not the only member of the cult of mac and cheese who prefers that cheese to have been slightly burnt. (And to those of you with me in the choir, we'll feast on crunchy bits after I wrap up this cheesy sermon for the runny-lovin' unbelievers.)

With this recipe, I'm looking to convert creamy mac and cheese lovers into disciples of something crunchier, edgier, and more delicious.

If you have only ever gummed down delicate arpeggios of creamy layers of cheese in perfect al dente pasta*, the bite from the sharp cheddar and the staccato crunch of baked macaroni will be a bit of a shock. You'll be disoriented at first. Frightened. Perhaps awestruck in the pants-pooping tradition of many a prophet in the face of the sublime. Be not afraid. 

This is my grandmother's recipe. There are four ingredients: elbow macaroni, sharp cheddar cheese, butter, and dry mustard. Bake at 375 for half an hour. Increase heat or time for added crunch. Serves four. 

  • ~2 cups of cooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb of sharp cheddar cheese (diced into 1/4" cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon of dry mustard
  • butter (slightly more than seems reasonable)
  • salt and pepper
  • ...and you'll need a medium oven-safe dish 

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Cook pasta while the oven heats up
  3. Add the pasta, the mustard, and cheese to the casserole dish
  4. Mix well
  5. Dot with butter, salt, and pepper
  6. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes
  7. (For extra crunch) Increase temperature to 400 for five minutes

You are on your own for resolving any disputes over who gets the corner piece. I recommend baking a main casserole dish as well as a small Pyrex dish to ensure that the cook receives the lion's share of crunchy bits. 

Did you hear the good word and try this dish for yourself? If so, drop me a note in the comments. Or even better! Show us all a picture of your version. Did you make a cute little plate of hors d'oeuvres? Did you add bacon? Did you make a healthier version? I've got a handful of 3 month pro memberships for anyone who takes up the crunchy challenge and shares a picture (or full Instructable) of their own crunchy mac and cheese recipes. 

*See? I can totally appreciate where you're coming from. I get why someone might like creamy mac and cheese. 
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