The increasing sophistication of American palates might partly explain the emergence of boxed mixes of white cheddar and macaroni. Or maybe it's that grown-ups reared on the orange stuff are upgrading. We found seven mixes in supermarkets; most were organic.
Our six tasters sought authentic cheese flavor, with enough cheese to coat the pasta. We used whole milk to make each mix, and followed the box's directions for each sauce. However, we cooked all the pastas to an al dente texture.
Our favorite was Safeway's O Organics. Annie's Homegrown, sold at natural-food stores as well as many supermarkets, earned second place; Kraft's organic version placed third.
Here are the winners; tasters' remarks are supplied for the top three. We are listing the serving size according to each box's Nutrition Facts label. The remaining mixes are listed in order of finish. Prices are based on what we paid for them at the supermarket and may reflect sales or discounts from frequent-shopper cards.
Renee Enna writes for the Chicago Tribune.
O ORGANICS WHITE CHEDDAR
Size: 7.25-ounce box; three 2/3 -cup servings.
"Good, cheesy aroma."
"Finally, a sharp cheddar flavor. Decent coating." "Salty."
ANNIE'S HOMEGROWN SHELLS & WHITE CHEDDAR
Size: 7-ounce box; three 1-cup servings.
Price: $2.50. "Buttery texture, mild cheddar flavor that's nice and subtle."
"Cheesy aroma; super mild and milky tasting."
"Not a lot of cheesiness going on."
KRAFT ORGANIC WHITE CHEDDAR
Size: 6-ounce box; 2 1/2 one-cup servings.
"Real cheesy and sharp, with character."
"Creamy and mild, but slightly sweet in a nice way."
"Salty and a little sweet."
365 White Cheddar (Whole Foods); Trader Joe's Organic Shells and White Cheddar; President's Choice Premium White Cheddar; Back to Nature Spirals & White Cheddar.