Macaroni and cheese is one of those quintessential comfort foods that instantly makes you feel good with its ooey, gooey cheesiness. And what better way to elevate this family favorite than to add succulent seafood? Creamy seafood macaroni and cheese takes this soul-warming dish to exciting new heights. Every bite features a lush creamy cheese sauce with delightful chewy pasta and sweet briny chunks of seafood scattered throughout.
This Seafood Macaroni and Cheese is rich, decadent and packed with flavor. The delicate seafood pairs perfectly with the sharp cheddar and parmesan, while the cream and milk make an ultra creamy sauce. Once baked, you get a crisp cheesy crust along with soft noodles and fork-tender seafood underneath. It’s pure comfort, perfectly balanced, in one epic pasta bake.
What Makes This Seafood Mac So Special
There are quite a few components that take this pasta dish to extraordinary new levels of deliciousness:
- The Seafood – Briny shrimp, crab and lobster meat add lots of extra flavor and make things more interesting than just plain mac and cheese.
- The Cheese – A combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan gives the creamy sauce a delightful punch.
- The Sauce – A classic béchamel sauce provides ultra creaminess and blankets every bite in gooey, cheesy goodness.
- The Bake – Baking allows a crispy crust to develop on top while the interior stays lusciously creamy.
- The Seasonings – Garlic, paprika and cayenne add layers of flavor without overshadowing the star ingredients.
It’s the careful balancing of flavors and textures that make this such an incredible pasta dish. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of how it all comes together!
Choosing the Seafood
The beauty of Seafood Macaroni and Cheese is that you can pick your favorite seafood or mix and match for variety. Here are some of the best options:
Shrimp add a sweet meaty flavor and slight snap to every bite. Small salad shrimp or medium shrimp both work well depending on your texture preference.
Lobster takes things to an ultra luxurious level. Splurge on some fresh lobster meat or use defrosted tails. The chunks give little indulgent bursts throughout.
Lumps of crab meat pair so perfectly with the cheese sauce. Use fresh or imitation chunks depending on your budget. Real crab gives the best flavor of course.
For extra elegance, diced scallops are a wonderful choice. They lend little bites of ocean sweetness to each bite.
Clams or Mussels
Finely chopped clams or mussels provide briny undertones and an added layer of richness to the dish.
Mix and match or use just one favorite seafood. Then let’s make some magic!
Easy Creamy Seafood Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
The best Seafood Macaroni and Cheese recipes start with a classic roux-based béchamel sauce to guarantee a smooth, creamy pasta topping. Then it’s all about layering in cheeses and seafood galore.
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 pound cooked shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, or combination
- Cook the macaroni: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Make the béchamel sauce: In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes to make a roux. Gradually whisk in milk, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Stir in paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper and garlic and cook 5 minutes until thickened and creamy. Remove from heat.
- Add the cheeses: Off heat, gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup parmesan until fully melted and smooth. The cheese sauce can be made ahead up to this point, then cooled, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days. Reheat before using.
- Combine it all: Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss to fully coat noodles in creamy cheese. Fold in seafood of choice ensuring it is evenly distributed throughout the mac and cheese.
- Bake it: Transfer Seafood Macaroni and Cheese to a lightly greased 2-quart or 9 inch square baking dish. Top evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/2 cup parmesan.
- Broil for crust: Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly at edges. Turn oven to broil for 3-5 minutes until top forms a crusty golden brown layer. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
This seafood mac is heavenly as written above, but you can always add personal touches as desired. Try adding sautéed mushrooms, peas, or roasted peppers. Swap in pepper jack or gruyere for the cheeses. Or top with panko or crushed crackers instead of extra cheese before broiling.
Let your creativity guide you to seafood pasta perfection. Just please make sure you share some with me, because this is one decadent mac and cheese I can never turn down!
FAQs About Making Seafood Macaroni and Cheese
1. Should I use fresh or frozen seafood?
Either works wonderfully! Use fresh seafood within a day or two for premium quality and sweetness. Thaw frozen seafood before using and drain off excess moisture so it doesn’t make the pasta watery.
2. What’s the best pasta shape to use?
For holding that yummy sauce in all the crevices, elbows and shells work perfectly. Penne, rotini and corkscrews work great too. Steer clear of long thin pastas that can overcook and turn mushy.
3. Is bechamel sauce absolutely necessary?
For the creamiest, smoothest, richest sauce, yes! The flour-and-butter roux is key. But in a pinch you can shortcut it by just stirring cheese into hot milk over low heat until melted and creamy.
4. How do I prevent a rubbery seafood texture?
Don’t overcook it! Carefully fold in cooked seafood a the very end so it only needs to heat through and doesn’t toughen up. Cooked shrimp or lobster should be tender, with crab staying delicate and flaky.
5. Can I prepare it ahead of time?
Absolutely! The entire recipe can be prepped, assembled and even baked ahead of time. Allow cooked pasta to cool before mixing in sauce to prevent mushiness. Store fully cooked casserole covered in fridge up to 2 days and reheat gently before serving.
6. What bottles of wine pair nicely?
Oh I’m so glad you asked! Rich seafood bakes love buttery chardonnay or unoaked white wines. For the best pairings, I personally recommend a crisp sauvignon blanc or viognier with vibrant fruit notes to cut through the decadence.
You Can Also Read Here The Classic Southern Pimento Cheese Sandwich