The Mac and Cheese Theory


A perfectly balanced blend of cheeses in a mac and cheese is a work of art.  The right ingredients come together in harmony and highlight each other’s strengths. The wrong mix of cheeses leave your dish flat and uninspired. Lucky for you, I know how to make any bowl a delicious experience and I’m here to impart the knowledge I gained from years of experimentation.

Next time you’re sampling cheeses, pay attention to where the flavor hits you when you take a bite. Cheddar, Gouda, and Mozzarella are right at the beginning. They’re your opener cheeses. Some cheese flavor comes to you at the end of the bite.  Think Parmesan, Asiago, and Gruyere. These are your closer cheeses. 

Take a look at my simple mac and cheese recipe. It features extra sharp Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Cheddar is the opener.  It says hi and welcomes you to the bowl like a warm hug.  Parmesan is the closer.  Always fashionably late to the party, but sure to leave you with an impression.  Both serve vital roles, and the mac and cheese just isn’t the same without each of them working together.

In my fridge, you will always find extra sharp Cheddar and Parmesan. You never know when you will have a cheese emergency and they are great cheeses to have on hand. When experimenting with new cheeses, you want to balance the flavor with an opposite counterpart.  If your new cheese is an opener, combine it with parmesan. Is the flavor of the cheese you bought at the end of the bite? Use your emergency cheddar to help it stand out. 

We aren’t limited to one type of each cheese. You can include a variety of opener or closer cheeses, just make sure you have at least one counterpart to balance your recipe.  Feel free to use Cheddar, Asiago, and Parmesan all in one bowl. Was there a mega sale on Gouda and Mozzarella? Use all of it! Just make sure and balance it out with another closer cheese. 

A note on cheese flavor. Keep an eye on the strengths of cheese you choose to incorporate. Aged Cheddar is almost always a better choice over mild, and Mozzarella is something you’d want to use for texture rather than how it tastes. The flavor of your cheeses to be highlighted, and some cheeses are simply too mild to serve a flavor role. Consider adding other flavorful cheeses (or even other ingredients!) to help your mac and cheese stand out. However, if you used plenty of cheese but the flavor is lacking, try adding a little salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, and it should pull out the cheesy flavor.

There are so many different flavor combinations you can make following this formula. Our grocery store routinely puts different cheeses on clearance, and I love to take it as an opportunity to test out different Mac and cheeses. I know I have all the tools to experiment successfully and now you do too.