How To Make Box Mac & Cheese Better

Good as it is, boxed mac 'n' cheese always feels like it's missing something—even if the pasta is shaped like bunny tails and comes in a microwaveable cup.

But what it's lacking in culinary prowess is surely made up for in nostalgic joy, a meal that will always serve as a reminder of the pride felt after making what was likely for many a first attempt at "homemade" dinner. So don't give up on it yet—instead, try one of these seven ways to jazz up the boxed classic.

 Add raw broccoli to your boiling pasta for the last two minutes of cooking time or simply stir cooked florets into the finished dish. It sneaks some green in there and technically doubles the mass of your dinner, so you can milk the box for all its worth.

 Give it a Southwestern edge by adding salsa, corn, black beans and a Mexican cheese blend—the shredded kind you get in a bag.

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 Turn your mac into breakfast by adding potatoes, chorizo and, of course, an egg

 Don't let yourself be defined by a cheese packet. Go for a four-cheese version by adding freshly grated Parm, fontina and burrata—a dinner not for the faint of heart (or lactose intolerant).

 Throw a string of pearls on dinner by adding convenient canned crab for a makeshift take on lobster mac. Proceed as usual with the boxed mix, add crab and bake in a casserole dish for a crab cake-pasta hybrid.

 Is that the sound of fall leaves crunching underfoot or just wishful thinking? It couldn't be easier to make pumpkin mac 'n' cheese: Just stir a can of the purée into your finished dish. Pumpkin pie spice optional.

 Add bacon. But did you really need us to tell you that?