Book Review: The Mac + Cheese Cookbook

Title: The Mac + Cheese Cookbook
Author: Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade
Format: ARC from NetGalley
Genre: cookbook
Did I like it: Not so much…

I make a great macaroni and cheese. That sounds pretty boastful, especially if you’ve never had my mac and cheese, but I stand by my statement. I was really excited for this cookbook, since I figured I could learn some new and exciting tips or tricks to make my mac and cheese even more awesome. Or get some ideas for mixing up what I put into it. (I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous in the past year or two, but I’m still mostly a purist.) Unfortunately, this book just sort of fell flat for me.

All of the mac and cheese recipes build off a basic recipe quite similar to the one I use – slightly undercooked pasta, bechamel sauce, and cheese – but with variations on the type of cheese used and the additional ingredients mixed in. Some of these variations just didn’t seem unique enough to warrant a separate entry (e.g. Cacio e Pepe is a cup of jack with a cup of pecarino romano, cheddar mac uses 2 cups of sharp white cheddar, and classic mac uses a mixture of extra sharp cheddar and pecarino). There are a lot of recipes that just seem like very narrow variations on the mac and cheese theme.

Now, someone reading this is now going to say “What the heck did you expect? It’s a book about mac and cheese – there’s only so much you can do with macaroni and cheese!”. But you’d be wrong! This book is full of unusual combinations – some of which sound more palatable than others. I love tuna casserole, but the authors lost me with the recipe for Tuna Mac, which actually calls for a cup of tuna salad to be mixed in to the havarti based macaroni and cheese. I was also disappointed by the “Chemistry” section, which is supposed to be full of wild and crazy (or even just unusual) ingredients. While the Vegan Mac and Cheese might be weird to some (it calls for soy milk, tofu, and nutritional yeast), if you ignore that recipe the most unusual thing in this chapter was truffle cheese, which can be difficult to track down, but isn’t actually that weird.

So what did I like? I’m glad that they’re sharing the idea that a very basic mac and cheese recipe can become a million different versions of mac and cheese. This is a good philosophy. I also thought the themed chapters (Chemistry, Extra Credit, etc.) were SUPER CUTE given that the restaurant is named Homeroom. I also thought some of the very simple, but balanced side dishes sounded good (e.g. Watermelon in Fresh Lime Syrup and Roasted Carrots with Citrus Vinaigrette). The dessert section is pretty basic (Carrot Cake, Strawberry Crisp, Grasshopper Pie) – but I wouldn’t expect anything extremely ornate from a macaroni and cheese cookbook. They’re good, traditional, down home style desserts that would complement comfort food. There is a recipe for a Dessert Mac – which sounds like it could be delicious. It uses mascarpone, sour cream, and a good amount of sugar and reminds me a lot of a kugel recipe. In fact, it’s rather similar to this recipe from the Food Network, just with different cheese and a couple of fruity mix ins. I wish the authors had acknowledged that this was a kugel and that the dish has a rich history, instead of just writing about it like they had come up with this AWESOME unique thing — dessert mac and cheese!

So anyway – this wasn’t a book I really loved. Would I give it to someone whose 4 year old will only eat macaroni and cheese? Absolutely. Would I buy it for myself? Nope.

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