Emeril's Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever Challenge Recipes

This morning on "Good Morning America," Emeril Lagasse announced the winner of his Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever Challenge: Laura Macek!

Some say it has been the most heated contest in America, presidential politics included.

Even Gov. Mike Huckabee weighed in with his endorsement when Robin Roberts won the anchors' round.

Thousands of "Good Morning America" viewers submitted their recipes, and we narrowed it down to five worthy challengers. You voted and helped to pick the winner.

Finally today, after weeks of suspense, Emeril revealed that Macek had won the competition!

Macek joined Emeril live on the show, along with semifinalists Princess Thompson and Gwen Richardson.

After winning the official cheese trophy, Macek showed Emeril how to recreate her decadent cavatappi, gruyere and cheddar creation.

You can find all five semifinalists' recipes below:

Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever from Laura Macek

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic, roasted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound Cavatappi pasta
½ pound sliced Applewood smoked bacon
1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
8 tablespoons butter
¼ cup minced shallots
½ cup flour
1 quart whole milk
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

To roast garlic: Slice ½ inch off the top of the entire head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic head tightly in a square of heavy foil and roast until tender — about 45 minutes. Remove garlic pulp by squeezing garlic head. Smash cloves with a fork to form a paste.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Cook bacon completely. Drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat. Crumble bacon when cool.

To make topping: Combine breadcrumbs, crumbled bacon, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Sauté shallots over low heat in reserved bacon fat for one minute. Add remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and continue to sauté shallots in butter and bacon fat until translucent.

Add flour and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Stirring constantly with a whisk, add milk and roasted garlic paste.

Cook until sauce is thickened (coats the back of a spoon). Remove sauce from heat then add salt, pepper, nutmeg, Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Stir in cooked pasta. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle topping to cover entire top. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until sauce is bubbly and topping is browned. Enjoy!

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Gwen Richardson's Marvelous Macaroni and Cheese Muffins

1 lb. Ronzoni cavatappi pasta
1 stick butter
3 tablespoons Frank's Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce
1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped very fine
Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
3 extra-large eggs
4 cans evaporated milk
2 10 oz. blocks of extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 8 oz. block of Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, grated
6 disposable tinfoil muffin pans
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Boil the cavatappi in salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot and add butter, hot sauce, onion and salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, beat eggs slightly, combine with evaporated milk and set aside. In a second bowl, grate cheeses, combine and set aside.

Prepare muffin tins by spraying with cooking spray. Stir ½ of grated cheese to cooled cavatappi mixture. Mix well.

Fill each muffin well with ¼ cup of cavatappi mix. Carefully pour enough milk/egg mix into each well to reach the top without overflowing. Use other half of cheese to top each muffin. Place muffin tins on cookie sheets before placing in hot oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until muffins have an evenly brown crust.

Remove pans from oven and allow cooling for 10-15 minutes. Remove individual muffins from pans and arrange on platter with sprigs of fresh parsley for garnish.

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Princess Thompson's Smack Yo Mamma Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups of shredded mild cheddar
2 cups of shredded Colby jack blend
1 cup of medium cheddar
2 cups of shredded Velveeta or small box
1 box of elbow macaroni or noodle of choice (try cellentani or cavatappi -- my kids love the fun shapes)
4 eggs
3 cups of whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 a stick of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

This recipe is for a 13 x 9 pan at least 3 to 4 inches deep.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray pan with non stick spray.

Boil noodles as per directions on box until just undercooked. Quick rinse, shake, drain and put to the side.

Mix eggs, milk, cream and salt and pepper, whisk until well blended. Pour 1/2 of milk mixture in bottom of the pan. Add a layer of noodles, then add salt and pepper. Take shredded cheese and combine in a bowl, give a quick toss. Top noodles with cheese, mix cheese up a little with noodles and repeat layers. If using box Velveeta, slice pieces over shredded mixture. (Don't forget salt and pepper on each layer.)

When you get to top, the last of cheese heavy on top. Take the rest of milk mixture and pour the remaining over the noodles and cheese. Poke holes so milk mixture can get all the way through. Melt butter and pour over mixture. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Cover tightly with foil. Bake in oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook 5-10 minutes more until golden. Let stand for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Always even better the next day.

This recipe started with me growing up watching my Grandma Helen make a version of this recipe on Sundays. I remember being so excited helping crack the eggs, watching it go in the oven and when it hit the plate. I've tweaked it over the years and now my kids beg me to make it. I've had people taste it once and two years later still talking about it. This is the right mixture of love and cheese and once you taste you'll want to Smack Yo Mamma and say, "Why didn't you ever make macaroni and cheese like this?"

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Cajun Macaroni and Cheese with Shrimp by Lisa Mazzaferro

1 lb. Cavatappi pasta cooked
8 T. butter, divided
1 lb. medium shrimp cut in thirds
1 tsp. cajun seasoning, divided
1 T. grated onion
3 T. flour
3 cups milk
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese (grated)
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese (grated)
1 lb. pepper Jack cheese (grated and divided)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. parsley
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in medium sauce pan. Add shrimp, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. cajun seasoning. Cook 3-4 minutes, remove.

In same pan melt 2T butter, add onion and sauté 1 minute. Whisk in flour, cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk and heat approximately 4 minutes. Add Swiss, cheddar and 3/4 lb. pepper Jack cheese. Stir until smooth. Add 1/2 tsp. cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir in cooked shrimp.

In buttered casserole dish add cooked cavatappi pasta. Pour cheese sauce over mix to cover all pasta.

Top with 1/4 lb. pepper Jack cheese, bread crumbs, 3 T. melted butter and parsley.

Bake 45 minutes.

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Teri Jarosh's "When Are You Making Mac and Cheese?" Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

16 ounces elbow macaroni
3 heaping tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 shakes Louisiana hot sauce (I'm sure any hot sauce would do)
5 cups half and half *
¼ cup butter
2 ½ cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (I use Kraft Cracker Barrel)
2 ½ cups Kraft Deli Deluxe American, sliced crosswise **
1 cup crushed barbecue potato chips
Dried parsley
Hungarian Paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cook elbows in boiling water for 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt butter and add flour, whisking until all butter and flour are incorporated. Add mustard, salt and pepper. Add half and half slowly until completely mixed, bring to a boil and lower heat. You may need to add additional milk if it's too thick, but usually it's fine. Add 4 cups cheese and the hot sauce and turn off heat and mix until all cheese is melted.

Grease a 13 x 9 pan with Pam. Add cheese sauce and elbows — mix thoroughly. Cover the top with potato chips and sprinkle paprika and dried parsley.

Cook in oven for 25 minutes and let sit out for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes approximately 6-12 servings, depending on your family and how hungry they are. Comes out great reheated the next day too, just add milk or if you have extra cheese sauce, just hold it over for reheating if you have any leftovers!

* You might need to add an extra ¼ cup milk to thin out the white sauce, sometimes it's too thick.
** Kraft Deli Deluxe is the best cheese for it — you can change to any American cheese and I'm sure it's fine, but it's always perfect with the Deli Deluxe.

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