No matter the weather, comfort food is always in season.
I write this during quarantine, where I am 100% thankful for grocery delivery and online shopping. We’re all food fans in my family, and while we all have different tastes and cravings from time to time, one constant can’t be beat — macaroni and cheese!
Macaroni pasta in itself is a pretty versatile pasta. You can eat it cold as macaroni salad, or hot with tomato sauce, or in, perhaps, its most delicious form — covered in cheese sauce. Baked, topped with breadcrumbs, cooked on the stovetop or even in the microwave, you can really make macaroni and cheese in a variety of ways.
In an effort to discover the best non-homemade mac and cheese, my family did a blind side-by-side taste test of five different kinds from five different brands.
Some were microwaved and some were cooked on the stovetop. I prepared each according to the directions on the packaging. My sink is now full, and I’m still hoping for Rosie the Jetson’s robot maid to be available on Amazon Prime. One macaroni and cheese I hope to test in the future but did not get to include is Trader Joe’s — the line to get in the store was wrapped around the building both times I attempted to just “run in.”
I didn’t label them during the tasting, although you could tell which one was Kraft (and that one was the last one sampled because I knew it would be a fan favorite). There wasn’t a sweep for winners, but there was a clear “loser.”
Here are the final rankings!
Overall, no one liked it, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the chickpea pasta. The pasta itself cooked with the consistency of regular pasta. The issue was the cheese sauce. Even following the directions and adding the optional butter, something was off. The cheese flavor wasn’t really cheddar, and it was dry. I will, however, recommend regular Banza pasta, because that alone with the added sauce of your choice is a great swap for traditional pasta, with more protein and fiber.
Not the best, but not the worst. Some family members felt there wasn’t enough cheese or flavor in the sauce. This one can be made in the microwave or baked in the oven, and it has a breadcrumb topping.
The cheese sauce on this macaroni is rich and creamy. This one also is made in the microwave. The downside of any of the microwaved pasta is that the consistency of the pasta is a lot softer than if you make it fresh.
I was surprised this wasn’t #1. My stepdaughter would choose this over any homemade macaroni and cheese and has actually asked in restaurants if the kid option is Kraft. You really can’t go wrong with the blue box, and the deluxe is also a favorite in our home.
The champion! The pasta is different because it’s a shell vs. a tubular, so the little shells scoop up the cheese sauce in every bite. The sauce on this one is flavorful but not too salty. This brand is made with organic wheat and 100% cheese. Their deluxe is also delicious!
There are so many quick macaroni and cheese options today, from regular elbow noodles to rice pasta to vegan cheese. What’s your go-to?