When you cook as much as I do, you're always looking for fun and funky ways to update traditional dishes, and the best part about making mac 'n' cheese is that you can add almost any ingredient to the basic recipe and transform it into something completely new. The question is, what to pair? Below are a few yummy options for sprucing up your basic mac, and tips on selecting wines to serve with them:
Feeling Mediterranean? Toss in some tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic for a fresh Caprese mac. Due to the high acidity content in the tomatoes and the vinaigrette, you definitely want to stick with a high acid wine. Reds are generally preferred with balsamic, and Italy has no shortage of bright, lighter-bodied wines that fit the bill. Think: Sangiovese (e.g. La Tancia), Valpolicella (e.g. Scaia) or Lambrusco (e.g. Mionetto).
For an elegant and sophisticated pasta, lobster is a welcome addition. The subtle sophisticated flavors of the seafood combined with the rich, creamy sauce are best highlighted by vibrant but full-flavored whites. Try a white Burgundy (those from Chablis work especially well) (e.g. Maligny Fourchambe) or even Champagne! (e.g. Montaudon)
Another exciting food trend I've been seeing a lot of lately is Greek. Combine your noodles with spinach, olives, capers and feta and you've got a winning Mediterranean casserole. These ingredients definitely call for higher acidity, light-bodied whites. My favs: Sauvignon Blanc (e.g. >Casa Julia), Moschofilero (e.g. Boutari Moschofilero) or Gavi (e.g. Broglia).
A delicious autumn twist becomes totally spring when you pull out that frozen squash you've been saving since October and combine it with ricotta and baking spices. The warm, rich flavors of this dish scream for smooth, fuller-bodied whites, particularly Falanghina, (e.g. Donnachiara) a southern Italian wine I've always found has hints of pumpkin-y flavors itself. Also check out some of the Viogniers (e.g. Tortoise Creek) or Gewurztraminers. (e.g. Freedom Run)
Veggie option: spinach and artichoke always work together, especially with cheese and pasta. Unfortunately, artichoke is one of the most difficult ingredients to pair wine against. It makes all wines taste sweeter than they are, so you definitely want to start with something dry, and preferably with lots of acidity. My top picks include Gruner Veltliner (e.g. Laurenz Sophie), Muscadet (e.g. Pepiere) or an unoaked Chardonnay (e.g. Echeverria).
Of course, if you're not overly adventurous, or you're feeling super traditional, you can always go with a classic cheddar mac-- and serve it with a Beaujolais (e.g. Souzy) if you're adding bacon, or a Chenin Blanc (e.g. Armond Vouvray) if you're not.
There is no such thing as a boring mac and cheese...