An absolute gem of entertaining is party food bars. Make-ahead meals that are fun to serve are a big hit with kids and adults. The trick can be finding a main course that pleases everyone, but it doesn't have to be. In this case, party food bars meet comfort food — and welcome the macaroni and cheese bar! A perfect macaroni and cheese recipe can be kicked up a notch with a variety of toppings making your next family dinner — or party! — a guaranteed success.
What you'll need
Start with this ridiculously simple one-pot macaroni and cheese recipe. Once ready, it's rich and creamy and after it has warmed for a bit, the cheese browns and the consistency becomes more crumbly. You should be warned though — it disappears either way you serve it! This recipe comes together quickly, freezes well and reheats perfectly. It's an absolute entertaining win.
Homemade macaroni and cheese
- 1 box elbow macaroni
- 1 stick butter
- 2-1/2 cups half and half
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 pound grated cheese (We're partial to cheddar in macaroni and cheese, but consider mixing flavors! Some winning combinations include a variety of cheddars, cheddar and Monterey Jack and cheddar and Colby.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cook the macaroni to the package directions, and then drain it and set it aside.
- In the same pot, melt the stick of butter. Once it's melted, pour in the half and half and the dry mustard and cook the delicious mixture for about five minutes, stirring regularly while it's cooking.
- Add in the grated cheese, stirring until it's melted.
- Still stirring, sprinkle salt — and pepper, if you'd like — to taste, until your cheese sauce tastes a bit saltier than you'd expect it to.
- Pour in the macaroni, stir and serve the macaroni and cheese immediately for the creamy version, or set it to warm in a slow cooker or your stovetop for a crumblier consistency.
What you'll do
Once your macaroni and cheese is ready, it's time to set up the macaroni and cheese bar! Add variety and get creative with your toppings. Some ideas include:
- Meat — Grilled and sliced chicken, sliced steak, ground meat, sausage, salami, shrimp, salmon, bacon bits, diced ham
- Vegetables — Fresh spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, green onions, bell peppers
- Surprises — Sweet potatoes, avocado, salsa, olives, grated cheese, cubed cream cheese
- Seasonings— Seasoned salt, chili powder, sriracha, taco seasoning, cumin, French onion seasoning
Prepare all of your toppings in pretty serving dishes, small bowls or Mason jars. Then, set out the plates, forks and napkins and sit back while the macaroni and cheese bar runs itself! Remember that part of the fun is seeing the kinds of creations your friends and family come up with, so let the creativity flow, and pass the napkins as needed!
One More thought^ Macaroni and cheese bars are fun to have and wholesome to serve. Consider having one for your next family night, as a simple weekend lunch or as the main attraction for your next birthday party, slumber party or family dinner party!