11 Mac 'n' Cheese Hacks, Because The Classic Can — Gasp! — Get Even Better

If you’re like us, you fill your Pinterest account with pretty, happy things to eat. Berries figure prominently, together with zucchini ribbons and juices in every color of the rainbow. Your boards have names like “Picnicking,” “Dream Kitchen,” and “Summer Days.”

Real life doesn’t look like Pinterest. In fact, it looks more like a box of Easy Mac beside your stovetop, after a long day and no desire to pickle chard stems. And you know what? There's no shame in these glorious, cardboard boxes. They've been saving our dinner since we were kids — but now, it’s time to turn them into a respectable meal. Or, at the very least, a meal with more than just carbs and powdered cheese. With a little inspiration from the craziest kitchen scientists we know, we rounded up the best ways to eat Easy Mac — and feel good about it.

Image: Damn Delicious

by Lisa Siva

Truffle It

You know that one bottle of nice truffle oil sitting in the back of your pantry? Drizzle it over your finished mac and cheese — and voilà. Instant serving of fancy. Thanks, I Am a Food Blog!

Image: I Am a Food Blog

Caprese, Capisce?

Caprese is foodie-speak for three ingredients that are both ridiculously simple and ridiculously delicious. Top your Easy Mac with diced tomatoes, basil, and shredded mozzarella and pretend like you’re vacationing in the Mediterranean. Damn Delicious breaks it down.

Image: Damn Delicious

Get It Drunk

Most things can be improved with beer, and Easy Mac is one of them. As you pour in the cheese packet, add a glug of your favorite brew — and save the rest for drinking. Thanks, How Sweet Eats!

Image: How Sweet Eats

Keep It Light

“Skinny” and “mac and cheese” don’t usually belong in the same sentence, but Cooking for Keeps has inspired us. Instead of the usual butter and whole milk, try stirring in a dollop of reduced-fat cream cheese.

Image: Cooking for Keeps

Bring Home the Bacon

Then again, if you’re doing Easy Mac, you might as well pull out all the stops and top it with slivers of bacon, à la Damn Delicious.

Image: Damn Delicious

Do It Popeye-Style

Add a handful of baby spinach in the last minute of microwaving, and it’ll totally make your Easy Mac healthy. (Don’t ask questions.) Our friends at Naturally Ella also like a hint of sweet potato.

Image: Naturally Ella

Put on the Ritz

You know what takes mac and cheese from “good” to “food of the gods?” Breadcrumbs. But nobody’s got time for that. Take a cue from Half Baked Harvest instead and crumble Ritz crackers on top. Oh, and if you have a little wedge of brie on hand, that wouldn’t hurt either.

Image: Half Baked Harvest

Pumpkin Spice

I Am a Food Blog turned us on to this genius way of giving our mac a little heft: pumpkin puree. You don’t need much; just a tablespoon of the good stuff will make your late-night drunk food magical.

Image: I Am a Food Blog

Make It a Pizza

You love Easy Mac. You love pizza. Why not have the best of both worlds? Pepperoni and shredded mozzarella are the dynamic duo in Back to Her Roots’ baked version, but we think they’d be just as good on top of your Easy Mac.

Image: Back to Her Roots

Do It Yourself

If you’re feeling really productive, you can make your own cheesy, sausage-filled mac in the microwave — from scratch. Lady and Pups has the recipe.

Image: Lady and Pups

Make a Sandwich

Got leftover mac and cheese? Slap it between two slices of bread, throw it on the grill, and call it a panini. Thanks, Damn Delicious!

Image: Damn Delicious