Beyond the Box: Mac & Cheese & More

The Food Focus for January 2019, written by contributing editor Kelsey Casselbury, 
Encourages you to go beyond the box and explore varied mac & cheese trends to increase participation, rather than sticking to same-old, same-old—even if that’s prettyu popular all on its own! In “The Knack for a Better Mac (& Cheese),” SN gives you the tools to pump up your pasta game and, in this online extra, go beyond the box and beyond the line with build-your-own mac bar mix-in lists and, then, into the kitchen for some cooking tips from the pros

The Ultimate Mix-in List

Thinking of setting up a build-your-own macaroni and cheese serving line in the cafeteria or offering a mac and cheese buffet at your next party? Use this comprehensive list of add-ins and toppings as inspiration. Some suggestions are regulation-compliant for the reimbursable lunch or a la carte lines, but others are more suited to a decadently delicious catering or home dish.


Artichokes Green chilies Peppers
Avocado Jalapenos Tomatoes
Broccoli Kale Spinach
Caramelized onions Kimchi Summer Squash
Cauliflower Mushrooms Sweet Potato
Corn Peas Zucchini


Bacon Chorizo Hot dogs
Barbecue chicken Edamame Kidney Beans
Black beans Fajita chicken Meatballs
Brisket Ground beef, chicken, Pepperoni
Buffalo chicken pork or turkey Pulled pork
Chickpeas Ham Salmon/Tuna

Spices and Seasonings

Barbecue sauceHot sauceRanch dressing
CayenneItalian spiceSriracha
Cracker crumbsNutmegTaco Spice
Garam masalaPico de gallo

Cooking Tips from the Pros

Macaroni and cheese is the epitome of a kid favorite, but holding it on the serving line can be tricky. Some industry experts—Monica Coulter, corporate chef, General Mills Convenience & Foodservice; Gerald Drummond, executive chef, Campbell’s Foodservice; and Michael Gunn, director of Culinary, Schwan’s Company—weigh in on how to best cook and serve the classic comfort food.
  • Cook the pasta only to the al dente stage, so it’s still firm and little chewy. This allows for a little extra holding or baking time while it’s being held warm on the line and will soften further by the time kids take a forkful.
  • Consider batch-cooking your macaroni and cheese throughout the entire lunch service, rather than cooking it all at one time and having to hold it for all that time.
  • It’s easy to add veggies to a macaroni and cheese dish. Particularly good fits include broccoli, peas and sundried tomatoes. However, avoid adding most canned vegetables—they tend to be very soft to begin with, and they don’t hold well on the line.
  • Rather than breadcrumbs, used whole-grain cracker crumbs as a topping for
  • baked mac and cheese.
  • Try out different types of shaped pasta, such as bowties, penne, or rotini. Indeed, the little nooks and crannies of rotini will hold the cheese sauce perfectly.

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