Homemade Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese is my all time favourite comfort food.
The popular pasta casserole features macaroni noodles, creamy bechamel cheese sauce, smokey barbecue pulled pork and crunchy bread crumb gratin.
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Mac and Cheese History
Wondering who created the first macaroni and cheese? As you might have guessed, mac and cheese traces its recipe roots to Italy.
The “Liber de Coquina,” or “Book of Cooking,” an Italian cookbook from the 13th century, includes a recipe called De Lasanis that culinary historians believe is the first macaroni and cheese recipe. The recipe calls for sheet pasta cut into 2-inch squares, cooked in water and tossed with grated cheese, likely parmesan.
Hobby historians have often credited Thomas Jefferson with introducing macaroni and cheese to the United States. While that probably isn’t true, he did help make it popular. He dined on the dish during his visit to Italy and loved it so much that he brought a pasta maker back home with him. He served the dish at the White House in 1802.
Mary Rudolph, who took over hostess duties at the White House when Jefferson’s wife died, included a macaroni recipe with parmesan cheese in her famous 1824 cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife.”
Kraft Foods later introduced Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in 1937, at the end of the Great Depression. Dubbed “the housewife’s best friend, a nourishing one pot meal,” it was a fast, filling and inexpensive way to feed a hungry family. In that year alone, 8 million boxes were sold, and the popularity of Kraft dinners boomed.
Mac and Cheese is now a North American staple. Cherished homemade family recipes are passed down through generations, slowly being tweaked over the years by each cooks preferred tastes.
Mac and Cheese recipes have evolved more recently as creative chefs have fun in the kitchen at restaurants and steakhouses. Many Canadian and American restaurant menus dress up the traditional pasta dish with gourmet ingredients such as butter-poached lobster, black truffle and caviar.
My Family Loves Mac and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese was the first dish my mom taught me how to make as a kid. At the time I was quickly becoming obsessed with cooking in the kitchen as I’d just bought my very own bread maker.
Whenever my sister or I celebrated our birthday my mom would prepare her famous recipe for mac and cheese. I took an interest in learning the basics and soon found myself as the official mac & cheese chef of the family.
On busy nights my mom would prepare her mac and cheese sauce in the microwave. She’d spoon a dab of butter into a glass measuring cup and then nuke it until it melted. She’d then add a few spoonfuls of flour and mix it all together before slowly adding milk and shredded cheese. I’d stand on my tippy toes with my noes smushed against the glass door, eager to watch the cheese sauce bubble to the brim.
My Homemade Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Recipe
I’ve been perfecting my mac and cheese recipe now for years and prefer to use a stove top method. By slowly whisking your bechamel over the stove, the flour cooks uniformly in the sauce. The finished product is a velvety cheese sauce that I could easily eat by the spoonful!
I’ve jazzed up the classic recipe by layering the casserole dish to make a decadent pulled pork mac and cheese. I always suggest that you bake mac and cheese as it allows the top to get crispy and the sauce absorbs a lot of the liquid.
Feeling time crunched? You can make an easy version of our mac and cheese by scooping the prepared macaroni and cheese mixture into bowls and topping with pulled pork and shredded cheddar cheese. This removes the step in the oven, significantly cutting back on cooking time.
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Tips
If it’s your first time making pulled pork mac and cheese, here are a few tips to ensure your dish turns out perfectly!
- Once the flour and butter has formed a roux, be sure to slowly add warm milk so the bechamel sauce is smooth. If you add cold milk all at once it will create flour-filled clumps and lumps.
- I like to flavour my mac and cheese with nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. If you enjoy spicy food feel free to add your favourite hot sauce, chili flakes or sliced jalapneo peppers to give the dish a nice kick.
- I often like to get creative with my liquids when making macoroni and cheese. Feel free to substitute some of the milk with chicken stock, your favourite craft beer, or a dry riesling.
- I’ve found Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere and Cheddar offer the perfect cheese combination. If you’re looking to experiment with other cheeses just make sure to incorporate products that have been aged, such as Pecorino, Manchego or Asiago. Young cheeses like Mozzarella, Ricotta or Havarti become stringy and don’t incorporate properly.
- If you’re looking for leftover pulled pork recipes, mac and cheese is a perfect option. You can also stuff your mac and cheese with chopped spicy chorizo or smokey slow-roasted brisket.
- I usually top my mac and cheese with breadcrumbs but you can also sprinkle with crushed Ritz Crackers, Panko crumbs or shredded cheddar cheese.
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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Assembly
Our recipe for homemade pulled pork mac and cheese requires a springform pan, the kind you use to bake a cheesecake. We’ve included several images that showcase each step of the assembly. Once out of the oven, let the casserole cool so it keeps it shape when it’s time to slice for your guests.
If you are looking for a quick mac and cheese recipe you can always use an oven-safe casserole dish or fondu pot instead. For a more simpler assembly, add half of the mac and cheese mixture, top with pulled pork and then cover with the remaining pasta.
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese
- springform pan
- mixing bowl
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- cheese grater
- 2 cups macaroni
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano shredded
- 1/2 cup Old Cheddar shredded
- 1/2 cup Gruyere shredded
- 2 cups Pulled Pork
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Liberally butter the bottom and sides of a large springform pan.
- After the pan is buttered lightly sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Set aside.
- Boil macaroni in salted water 2 minutes before al dente. We don't want the pasta to be fully cooked as it will be absorbing the cheese sauce in the oven.
- Strain macaroni and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Meanwhile in a large saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add flour and stir to create a thick roux for 3-5 minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Add Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
- Slowly add warm milk and stir with a whisk until the roux thins out into a creamy bechamel sauce.
- Turn the stove down to medium-low heat and stir for 20 minutes until all of the milk has been incorporated. It is so important to stand over the stove and watch carefully. If you don't, your flour will form clumps and ruin the consistency of your sauce.
- Slowly add shredded cheeses to the bubbling sauce, stirring to incorporate.
- Once the cheese sauce is perfectly smooth pour over macaroni. I like to make so much sauce that it looks like a borderline soup. The pasta will quickly absorb the sauce in the oven so be sure to toss so all of the noodles are incorporated.
- Use a large spoon to layer the pulled pork mac and cheese in the springform pan. Alternate by adding shredded cheese, macaroni cheese mixture and pulled pork.
- Finish the casserole by sprinkling the top with bread crumbs.
- Place the springform pan on a baking sheet and bake in a 350F pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Serving Suggestions
Once your homemade pulled pork mac and cheese is ready to serve, slowly pop open the springform pan and slice the casserole as it it were a cheesecake. Your guests will gawk with glee at each mouthwatering layer!
I like to serve mac and cheese with a Corn Salad, Kale Salad or Fennel Salad. The salad’s juicy acidity adds a nice contrast to the rich creaminess of the mac and cheese. This pasta recipe is no doubt decadent, so we suggest adding healthy greens or your favourite vegetables to the plate to make it nutritionally well-balanced.
Our favourite way to enjoy the recipe is to accompany each scoop of macaroni and cheese with crunchy gherkins, cocktail onions, and apple slices. These unusual pasta garnishes are inspired by a popular Swiss dish called Alplermagronen.
Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese is also popular in African American kitchens. You can often find the dish served in Soul Food restaurants in city’s like Savannah, Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, Rochester, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, New York City and Portland.
If you’re looking to create a feast inspired by the American South, pair your mac and cheese with fried chicken, collard greens, jalapeno cornbread, baked beans, ham hocks, black-eyed peas, sweet potato casserole, grits, hoecakes or hushpuppies.
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