Three Food Writers Go Head-To-Head-To-Head In ‘The Mac & Cheese Showdown’

A few weeks ago, Zach Johnston, Vince Mancini, and I faced off, to see who could make the best BLT. It was a fun little lark, a nice break in all of our days. Then something cool happened: people read the piece, people commented, people wanted to get involved. As it turns out, there’s a place in this vast internet landscape for three adults to bitterly insult one another’s cooking.

The results of that competition were plain: Vince’s BLT came out on top, Zach’s was second, and mine, which I believed to be a culinary masterpiece, placed last. Maybe it was the anchovy mayo, or the rustic bread, or the photos that looked like they were taken in a police booking room, but if ever there was a way to ensure that this one-off turned into a series, it was to make me the unanimous loser.

As the comments wound down on the last piece, once everyone had finally used up all the ways to mock my BLT, our commenters suggested that we tackle mac & cheese for round two. Better yet, they wanted to get in on the action. We set up a hashtag for online entries (#macandcheesechallenge) and were off to the races.

So have at it. Tear us up like Vince tearing a baguette to make totally unnecessary breadcrumbs, then tell us what to cook for round three — because this train isn’t stopping until I’m on top of the leaderboard.

— Steve Bramucci, Life Editor



I didn’t really grow up eating mac & cheese like a lot of people seemed to have, and to be honest I find the whole fancy mac and cheese craze a little alienating. Don’t get me wrong, I like it fine as a side dish when I’m eating barbecue or whatever, but I’m not sitting around my house craving mac and cheese like some infantilized diaper daddy. What are we going to make next? Pigs in a blanket? Ants on a log?

Some foods don’t need a fancy version. The fancier you make it, the less it’s mac and cheese. If you’re trying to class it up, why not just eat some pasta not meant for 6-year-olds? We rightfully began making fun of fettucini alfredo in the 80s but somehow mac and cheese gets a pass? I don’t get it. But fine, whatever, I’ll cook your cheesy member berries if it gets us to talking about food quicker. Anyway, most of my ancestors are from Italy, so my closest reference point here was baked ziti. If yours is Kraft mac & cheese this recipe is probably going to seem weird.

Also, no meat. For one, it’s cheating, for another, this dish already has 10 pounds of butter and cheese. I have the fattest fat tooth known to man, but if you think what mac and cheese needs is more animal fat, seek help.


Flour (for the bechemel)
Whole milk (for the bechemel)
A baguette (for the bread crumbs)
Flat-leaf parsley (for the bread crumbs)
Chicken boullion (for the pasta water)
Cheese (Aged English Cheddar, Mexican melting cheese, Gruyere)
Mustard, White Pepper (for the bechemel)
Butter (not pictured)
Beer (for the chef)


I actually haven’t cooked store-bought pasta in a long time (fluffs scarf, thumbs nose at proles), but my pasta machine doesn’t have an extruder so I was limited to Whole Foods’ offerings. I prefer the bigger elbow pasta, but they only had the baby kind (who the f*ck wants tiny noodles?), so I got cavatappi instead. They’re basically a ringlet — kind of like two or three big macaroni noodles stuck together. Not exactly what I wanted, but fine.