AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Macaroni and cheese, long a favorite of families looking for something quick that the kids will eat, has gone upscale in recent years. On the shelf next to the familiar elbow macaroni with cheddar-cheese sauce, you see fusilli, farfalle, and fettuccine with Parmesan, Romano, and Alfredo sauces. You can get organic and "light" products. They certainly sound more adult, but none is likely to please a sophisticated palate.
Our trained panelists tasted pastas with cheddar-based and Italian-cheese-based sauces, including frozen heat-and-serve products, dry mixes, mixes that include sauce in a packet, and jarred sauces that you mix with the pasta of your choice. Four products are marketed as "light," "lean," or "healthy" because they have less fat and sodium than many of the others.
To give the dry mixes their best chance, we prepared them with butter, when butter or margarine was specified in the instructions, and 2 percent milk. Even so, no product tasted as if it were freshly prepared with high-quality ingredients. And despite their fancy names and grown-up pasta shapes, only 3 of the 16 tasted somewhat better than the traditional standby, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, which itself rated only "good."
Nutrition labels of the jarred sauces don't take into account the pasta you add, and mixes that require the addition of butter or margarine and milk often list most "as prepared" nutritional data in the small print. In our Ratings, nutritional information is for the products as we prepared them, according to label directions.
The sauce of a high-quality pasta-and-cheese dish should have distinct dairy and obvious cheese flavors. You should be able to identify the cheese as high-quality cheddar or Italian-type, depending on the product. There should be no dairy off-flavors, bitterness, salt substitute, or other inappropriate notes. The sauce may be fairly thin to quite thick, but not chalky, gummy, or …