Grate Your Own Cheese For A Creamier, Meltier Macaroni Dish

Mac and cheese tops the list when it comes to über-comforting meals that can be baked in abundance for a hungry crowd. If you're looking for a simple way to intensify the cheesy notes and textures in your next batch, we've got a quick tip. To make a creamier, meltier macaroni dish, you need to grate in your cheese by hand instead of using a pre-shredded variety that comes in a packet.

Cheese that's been grated and packaged in a resealable bag is convenient for those moments when you need to pull a meal together at lightning speed. Indeed, shredded cheddar, gouda, and Monterey Jack are great for making quick sandwiches and melts, topping homemade pizza, and tossing through salads. However, these pre-packaged cheeses are coated in preservatives, such as cellulose, which prevent the individual shreds from clumping together in the bag, and natamycin, which inhibits mold. 

These anti-caking and anti-microbial agents guarantee that each piece of cheese is distinct and can be scattered evenly over the top of lasagnas or strewn over an omelet, but they also hinder it from melting as efficiently as a freshly grated wedge of cheese. The strands soften in a lumpier fashion, impeding them from melting into that super-smooth consistency that lends macaroni dishes their comforting, velvety characteristic.

Grating your own cheese is cheaper and minimizes waste

Grating your Gruyère from a fresh block takes more time, but it will result in a meal with a gooey texture that boasts a super-satisfying cheese pull. The final dish will also taste better because it won't contain any additives that could adversely affect the naturally rich flavor of your cheese.

Moreover, blocks of cheese are usually cheaper than pre-grated bags, so you'll get more for your money if you switch to using larger wedges of sharp cheddar or gouda. You'll also minimize waste because you won't need to get through a big bag of shredded cheese before it expires. Of course, if you get through a lot of cheese each week, you could always grate an entire block and keep it in a box in the fridge so it's ready to go whenever you need it. That way you'll still benefit from the convenience of pre-packaged cheese with none of the preservatives. 

Use a food processor to do the leg work, instead of doing it by hand with a box grater, and you'll also save heaps of time. Any shredded leftovers can be put in a zip-top bag and frozen safely later. Bear in mind that the texture of the cheese will be crumblier after thawing — however, it will still melt beautifully when mixed through a piping hot sauce or sprinkled on top of baked ziti.