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12 Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is one of the most beloved comfort food dishes.

It’s creamy, cheesy, and oh-so comforting.

But what pasta should you use for the best mac and cheese?

The type of pasta you choose can make or break your dish.

After all, it’s a key ingredient that contributes to the texture and flavor of your meal.

To help you out, I’ve rounded up 12 of the best pastas for mac and cheese.

Whether you prefer traditional elbow noodles or something more unique like rotini or fusilli, there’s sure to be an option here that will suit your taste buds perfectly!

What is Mac and Cheese?

Macaroni and cheese

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food dish that consists of macaroni noodles mixed with a creamy, cheesy sauce.

It’s usually made with cheddar cheese, but other cheeses can be used as well.

The sauce is typically made from butter, flour, milk, and the chosen cheese.

The mixture is then poured over cooked macaroni noodles in an oven-safe baking dish and baked until golden brown on top.

Mac and cheese has been around since at least the 18th century when it was served as a side dish in England.

In 1937, Kraft Foods introduced its version of macaroni and cheese to the United States which quickly became popular due to its convenience—it only required boiling water for preparation.

Since then it has become an iconic American dish that can be found everywhere from school cafeterias to high-end restaurants.

Today there are countless variations on this classic recipe including vegan versions using plant-based milks and cheeses as well as more creative takes such as adding bacon or jalapenos for extra flavor.

No matter how you make it though, mac and cheese will always remain one of America’s favorite dishes!

12 Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food, but sometimes you may want to switch up your pasta.

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional macaroni noodles, here are 12 great options that will still give you the same delicious results:

1. Elbow or straight macaroni

Elbow Pasta

Macaroni is a type of pasta made from durum wheat and water.

It is usually cut into short, hollow tubes with ridges on the outside and a curved shape.

Elbow macaroni is the most common variety, but there are also straight macaroni noodles that can be used in recipes.

Elbow macaroni has an ideal shape for holding onto cheese sauce or other creamy sauces, making it perfect for dishes like mac and cheese.

Straight macaroni noodles are great for soups or casseroles because they don’t break apart as easily as elbow macaroni when cooked.

Pro Tip: To make sure your pasta doesn’t get too mushy, cook it al dente (firm to the bite).

This means boiling it until it’s just barely cooked through—it should still have some firmness in the center when you bite into it!

2. Cavatappi

Cavatappi

Cavatappi is a type of pasta that is shaped like a corkscrew or helix.

It is also known as cellentani, amori, spirali, or tortiglione.

Cavatappi has ridges on the outside and a hollow center which makes it perfect for holding sauces and other ingredients.

Cavatappi is an excellent choice for macaroni and cheese because its shape helps to hold onto the creamy sauce while providing plenty of surface area for the cheese to cling to.

The ridges also help create pockets of air which can be filled with extra cheese or herbs for added flavor.

Pro Tip: To make your macaroni and cheese even more delicious, try adding some diced bacon or cooked sausage to the mix!

This will add an extra layer of flavor that will take your dish from good to great!

3. Shell pasta

pasta Shells

Shell pasta, also known as conchiglie, is a type of pasta that comes in the shape of a shell.

It is usually made from durum wheat semolina and water.

Shells are often used in macaroni and cheese recipes because they hold onto sauces well due to their ridged surface.

Shell pasta has a slightly chewy texture when cooked properly, making it perfect for dishes like macaroni and cheese or baked ziti.

The ridges on the shells help them to hold onto creamy sauces better than other types of pasta, so you get more flavor with every bite!

Pro Tip: To make your macaroni and cheese even creamier, try adding some cream or half-and-half to the sauce before baking it!

This will give your dish an extra boost of richness that will take it over the top.

4. Farfalle

Farfalle

Farfalle is a type of pasta that is shaped like bow ties or butterflies.

It is also known as ‘bow-tie’ or ‘butterfly’ pasta.

Farfalle has a unique shape and texture, making it perfect for dishes such as macaroni and cheese, salads, soups, and casseroles.

Farfalle’s shape makes it ideal for capturing sauces and other ingredients in its crevices.

Its ridges give the pasta an interesting texture that adds to the overall flavor of the dish.

The bow tie shape also gives farfalle a nice bite when cooked al dente.

Pro Tip: For an extra cheesy mac and cheese dish, try adding some shredded mozzarella cheese to your farfalle before baking! This will add even more flavor and creaminess to your favorite comfort food!

5. Penne

Penne

Penne is a type of pasta that is shaped like tubes or cylinders.

It is usually cut diagonally at both ends, which gives it its distinctive shape.

Penne is one of the most popular types of pasta and can be found in many Italian dishes such as macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and baked ziti.

Penne works especially well with creamy sauces because the ridges on the outside help to hold onto all that deliciousness!

The hollow center also helps to trap sauce inside for extra flavor in every bite.

Plus, penne’s unique shape makes it fun to eat!

6. Fusilli

Fusilli

Fusilli is a type of pasta that is shaped like a corkscrew or spiral. It can be made from durum wheat, semolina flour, or other types of flour.

Fusilli is often used in salads and casseroles because it holds its shape well when cooked.

Fusilli pairs perfectly with creamy sauces such as mac and cheese, alfredo sauce, or pesto.

The ridges on the pasta help to hold onto the sauce better than other shapes of pasta.

The unique shape also adds an interesting texture to any dish!

Pro Tip: To get the most out of your fusilli, try cooking it in boiling water for just 2-3 minutes before draining and adding it to your dish.

This will ensure that your fusilli has a nice al dente texture without being too soft or mushy!

7. Rotini pasta

Rotini

Rotini is a type of pasta that is shaped like a corkscrew or spiral.

It has ridges on the outside and a hollow center, making it perfect for holding sauces.

Rotini is often used in salads, soups, casseroles, and macaroni and cheese dishes.

Rotini’s shape makes it ideal for capturing all sorts of flavors from your favorite sauces.

The ridges on the outside help to hold onto more sauce than other types of pasta shapes like spaghetti or penne.

This means that every bite will be full of flavor!

Pro Tip: To make sure your rotini comes out perfectly cooked every time, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to the boiling water before adding the pasta.

This will help keep the noodles from sticking together as they cook!

8. Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle is a type of pasta that originated in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

It is made from egg and flour, and has a flat, ribbon-like shape.

Tagliatelle is similar to fettuccine but slightly thinner.

Tagliatelle pairs well with creamy sauces like mac and cheese because it’s able to hold onto the sauce better than other types of pasta.

The wide ribbons also make for an interesting texture contrast when combined with crunchy toppings like bacon or breadcrumbs.

9. Radiatore

Radiatore

Radiatore is a type of pasta that is shaped like small radiators.

It has ridges and grooves on the surface, which helps to hold sauces and seasonings.

Radiatore is usually made from durum wheat semolina flour, but can also be made with other types of flours such as buckwheat or spelt.

Radiatore is perfect for macaroni and cheese because its shape holds onto the creamy sauce better than other pastas.

The ridges also help to create pockets of flavor when combined with your favorite cheese sauce.

Plus, it’s fun to eat!

Pro Tip: To make the most flavorful macaroni and cheese, cook the radiatore in salted water until it’s al dente (tender but still slightly firm).

This will ensure that your dish has plenty of flavor without being overly mushy or overcooked.

10. Orecchiette

Orecchiette

Orecchiette is a type of pasta from the Apulia region of Italy.

It is shaped like a small ear and has a slightly chewy texture.

Orecchiette is traditionally served with broccoli rabe, but it can also be used in other dishes such as mac and cheese.

Mac and cheese with orecchiette is an easy way to add some variety to your favorite comfort food dish.

The shape of the pasta helps hold onto all that creamy sauce, making each bite extra delicious!

Plus, you get the added bonus of getting more veggies into your meal if you choose to use broccoli rabe or another vegetable in your mac and cheese.

Pro Tip: To make sure your orecchiette cooks evenly, give it plenty of room in the pot by using at least 4 quarts (3.8 liters) of water for every pound (450 grams) of pasta.

11. Gnocchi

Gnocchi

Gnocchi are small dumplings made from potatoes, flour, and eggs.

They are usually boiled in salted water and served with a sauce or melted butter.

Gnocchi can also be baked or fried for a crispy texture.

Gnocchi is an excellent alternative to macaroni when making mac and cheese because it has a light, fluffy texture that pairs perfectly with creamy sauces.

The potato-based pasta also adds some extra flavor to the dish.

Pro Tip: To make your gnocchi mac and cheese even more delicious, try adding sautéed mushrooms or roasted vegetables like bell peppers or zucchini!

This will add some extra nutrition as well as flavor to the dish.

12. Rigatoni

Rigatoni

Rigatoni is a type of pasta that is larger than penne, but smaller than ziti.

It has ridges on the outside and a hollow center, which makes it perfect for holding sauces.

Rigatoni is often used in baked dishes like macaroni and cheese or lasagna because it holds its shape well when cooked.

Rigatoni can be used in many different types of dishes, from soups to salads to casseroles.

Its ridged surface helps sauce cling to the pasta better than other shapes, making it ideal for creamy sauces like Alfredo or carbonara.

The hollow center also allows for more flavor absorption so you get an even tastier dish!

Pro Tip: To make your mac and cheese extra creamy, try cooking the rigatoni in milk instead of water before adding your favorite cheese sauce!

This will give you a richer flavor and creamier texture that’s sure to satisfy any craving!

FAQ

What type of pasta is best for mac and cheese?

The best type of pasta for mac and cheese depends on the method of preparation.

For traditional stovetop macaroni and cheese, the two most popular types of pasta are elbow macaroni or medium shells.

These shapes are ideal for cooking in a pot and absorbing the creamy sauce.

When you’re making a baked mac and cheese, a corkscrew-shaped pasta like cavatappi, gemelli, or campanelle is great because it has lots of ridges and crevices that create a great texture contrast.

These pastas also have a bit more surface area to hold onto the cheese and other ingredients. Additionally, they hold their shape well when baked, so you can enjoy the same pasta bite in every spoonful.

What can I use instead of elbow macaroni?

If you’re looking for a substitute for elbow macaroni in your mac and cheese recipe, there are several options to choose from.

Macaroni is the best pasta to use for mac and cheese, but if you’re looking for something different, you can try cavatappi, shell pasta, farfalle, penne, fusilli, funky shapes pasta, or rotini pasta.

Each of these pastas have their own unique shape and texture, so you can experiment with different types to find the one that works best for your recipe.

Additionally, you can also use other types of pasta such as ziti, rigatoni, or orecchiette. Whichever type of pasta you choose, make sure to cook it al dente for the best results.

Can you use other types of pasta mac and cheese?

Yes, you can use other types of pasta for mac and cheese. In addition to traditional macaroni, you can also use conchiglie, farfalle, penne, and rigatoni.

These larger tube pastas will work just as well and can add a unique texture to your dish. If you don’t have any of these on hand, you can also use whatever pasta shapes you have available.

What Is The Best Partner For Mac And Cheese?

The best partner for mac and cheese is a hearty meat dish like meatloaf, BBQ pulled chicken or pork, or grilled meats such as chicken, pork, or steak.

For a lighter option, coleslaw or applesauce can be served alongside the mac and cheese.

Sloppy Joes, cornbread, and Brussels sprouts are also great accompaniments that will add flavor and texture to the dish.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mac and cheese is a classic dish that can be made with a variety of different types of pasta.

The types of pasta to use for mac and cheese will depend on the desired texture and flavor.

The best pasta for mac and cheese are elbow or straight macaroni, cavatappi, shell pasta, farfalle, penne, fusilli, funky shapes pasta, rotini pasta, tagliatelle, radiatore, orecchiette, gnocchi, and rigatoni.

Each of these pasta shapes has its own unique texture and flavor profile, so you can experiment with different combinations to find the perfect one for your dish.

No matter which type of pasta you choose, you can be sure that the end result of your mac and cheese will be delicious.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

12 Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese

When it comes to mac and cheese, the pasta you choose can make or break the dish. That's why I'm here to help you find the perfect pasta for your mac and cheese. In this article, I'm sharing my top 12 picks for the best pasta for mac and cheese. I'll provide a brief overview of each one, as well as how to cook them properly and how to combine them for maximum flavor. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned chef, you'll find something here that'll take your mac and cheese from good to great!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Pasta
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 361 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • Elbow or straight macaroni
  • Cavatappi
  • Shell pasta
  • Farfalle
  • Penne
  • Fusilli
  • Rotini pasta
  • Tagliatelle
  • Radiatore
  • Orecchiette
  • Gnocchi
  • Rigatoni

Instructions
 

  • Pick your favorite pasta from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected pasta with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.