10 Ways to Enhance Annie’s Mac & Cheese

10 Ways to Enhance Annie's Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

So, here’s the thing. My son, Cooper doesn’t like Mac & Cheese. ISN’T THAT CRAZY??!  There’s something about pasta he doesn’t like (are we even related?!!) and he’s kinda finicky about melted cheese (only on pizza and sometimes quesadillas).  I’m hoping/praying it’s just a phase. We shall see. BUT!!  Casey, on the other hand loves pasta in ANY form.  Whenever he’s is working late and Cooper has already eaten dinner and gone to bed, I usually whip up a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese for us adults.  It’s very rare that I make a box on its own because I love the challenge of coming up with new additions. I think Casey definitely appreciates the effort!

Every Monday Annie’s shares a new creative Mix-In idea on their twitter, Instagram & Facebook pages. Today I teamed up with Annie’s to show you some of MY favorite Mix-Ins (I created 10 recipes total!) on this fine MONDAY.  Let’s get into it!

Before we get started,  I wanted to share that I used  four different types of Annie’s Mac & Cheese for these recipes.  Each one of them has their own flavor profile and they work as great bases for the additions.

Annie’s Organic Shells & White Cheddar  –has a creamy mild taste that makes it so versatile.

Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar –whole wheat is a nice bonus!

Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar–tangy, cheesy, the color is super enticing, don’t you think?

Annie’s Classic Macaroni & Cheese –it’s a classic!  The macaroni shape is my favorite!

Each recipe here serves 2 people or (let’s be real) one HUNGRY person.

Broccoli Cheddar Mac // shutterbean

Broccoli + Cheddar Mac & Cheese

Here’s a simple trick. Put uncooked broccoli into a pot of boiling shells at the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. You’ve successfully cooked broccoli AND Mac & Cheese. It’s a two-fer situation! I like to make sure that I have more broccoli than mac in my bowl.  That’s what I like to call balance!

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • 8-10 broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

Cook shells according to package directions. When shells have about four minutes left in the cooking time, add broccoli florets and finish cooking.  Drain shells and broccoli, place both back in the pot and continue following the directions with the additions of butter, milk and flavor packet. Stir in cheddar and serve immediately.

Zucchini Corn Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Zucchini Corn Basil Mac & Cheese

This Mac & Cheese is inspired by my Corn Zucchini Lime Pizza.  All my favorite Summer vegetables! The lime adds brightness to the dish and basil adds a little something something. Goat cheese provides creaminess  you’ll love the sweetness you get with the corn addition.  I’d definitely throw a fried egg on top if I’m feeling like going for the gold!

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • a glug olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into cubes
  • 1 cup corn
  • ¼ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh lime juice
  • 4 leaves basil, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup goat cheese

Cook shells according to directions on package. In a medium skillet,  saute zucchini, corn,  and onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until vegetables are softened and have a slight char, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season with salt & pepper and a light squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste. Stir vegetables, chopped basil and goat cheese into prepared mac & cheese. Serve immediately.

 Roasted Tomato Sausage Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Roasted Tomato & Sausage Mac & Cheese

If you have roughly 30 minutes to make dinner, this is what you should make. Why? Well the oven does most of the heavy lifting for you.  That means you can do so much in your kitchen/around the house/kid wrangling while your appliances work for you. A little prep at the end provides MAXIMUM reward.  I employ this roasted sausage & tomato trick whenever possible and you’ll see why!

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar
  • 3 Italian sausages
  • 1 1/2 cups plum tomatoes
  • glug olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • salt & pepper
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup ovoline mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400F.  On a baking sheet, toss sausage, tomatoes & smashed garlic with a glug of olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Place in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until sausage is thoroughly cooked.  Cut up sausage and stir into prepared mac & cheese with tomatoes, garlic, fresh chopped basil and ovoline mozzarella. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Fajita Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Shrimp Fajita Mac & Cheese

I’ll take a bowl of this at Shrimp Fajita Mac & Cheese least once a week. Please and thank you.  Creamy Mac & Cheese gets smash-banged with shrimp fajitas! The cumin in the shrimp really adds a nice flavor to the mac & cheese.  Then again, put sautéed onions on anything and I’m into it.

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • 16 medium cooked shrimp, tail off
  • ½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ¼ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ avocado, cut into chunks
  • fresh lime juice, for serving
  • cilantro. for serving
  • hot sauce,  for serving

In a medium skillet, saute onions peppers with olive oil and cumin over medium-high heat for 6-7 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Peppers and onions should be soft at this point.  Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir shrimp fajita mixture into prepared Mac & Cheese. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve immediately.

Breakfast Sausage + Poblano Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Breakfast Mac & Cheese with Fried Egg

This is exactly what I want to eat after a night of indulging in spirits. But, I’d gladly eat this on a Monday night when I really just want comfort with little effort. Breakfast for dinner? Yes, please. In this recipe, breakfast sausage is combined with chopped poblano peppers, garlic and onion. A fried egg finishes it off with a BANG. That runny yolk mixed in with the shells? I’m definitely a fan.

  • 1 box prepared  Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • a glug of olive oil
  • 1 medium poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4-5 cooked breakfast sausage links, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • hot sauce

In a medium skillet, saute poblano pepper and onion with a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat until mixture softens and develops a light char, about 5-6 minutes. Season mixture with salt & pepper and stir in breakfast sausage and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove mixture from pan, wipe pan down and fry an egg with a little bit of olive oil. Stir sausage poblano mixture into prepared Mac & Cheese and top with a fried egg and hot sauce.  Serve immediately.

Jalapeno Pepperjack Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Jalapeño Pepperjack Mac & Cheese

This one was INCREDIBLE. After working with the shells, I loved using Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese pasta.  I really couldn’t stop eating it. There’s something about that texture! If you love jalapeño poppers, this one is for you! We combine sharp cheddar, pepperjack, goat cheese with chopped pickled jalapeños. It’s a creamy/spicy dream.  This one is my second favorite.

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Classic Macaroni & Cheese
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1/4 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 5-6 pickled jalapeño slices, roughly chopped

Cook macaroni & cheese according to package and stir in cheddar, pepper jack, goat cheese and chopped jalapeno. Serve immediately.

Sundried Tomato Artichoke Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Sun Dried Tomato Artichoke Mac & Cheese

The best part about this one is that half of the ingredients can be pulled out of the pantry. I almost always have a jar of sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in my cabinet.  With a little basil and feta you can throw together this little Greek number in no time. Add olives if you feel so inclined!

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped

Cook shells & cheddar according to package. Stir in sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, feta and chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Chili Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Chili Mac & Cheese

By far our FAVORITE combo! I’m going to be exploiting this recipe during football season, for sure. The shells make the chili a little creamy and the flavors meld wonderfully. You’ll think you’re eating chili and then BAM, creamy/cheesy shells are in the mix.  There’s so much  goodness in one small bowl. Promise.

  • 1 box prepared  Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • 1 ½ cups vegetarian chili
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped (green parts only)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onions
  • ½  avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • hot sauce (optional)

Cook shells & cheddar according to package. Reheat chili in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir chili into prepared shells & cheddar until well combined. Top each serving with green onions, tomatoes, red onions, avocado, cheddar, sour cream and hot sauce. Serve immediately.

Crispy Pancetta + Pea Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Pesto Pea and Crispy Pancetta Mac & Cheese

This was my husband’s second favorite. I’m surprised because it’s filled with the color GREEN!  Frozen peas get cooked with the shells, pancetta browns on the stove….pesto rounds out the flavor and bridges the gap between salty pancetta and sweet peas.  I’m glad to have this trick in my arsenal.

  • 1 box prepared Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar
  • 4 oz. diced pancetta
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Cook shells & cheddar according to package and in the last 3 minutes of cooking time, place the frozen peas in the boiling water with the shells.  While shells & peas cook, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook pancetta until crispy, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain shells and peas, prepare the shells & cheddar according to package and stir in pancetta, and pesto. Top shells with freshly grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

Bacon Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese // shutterbean

Bacon Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese

This one is for the nights when you want burgers but you forgot to buy BUNS! Oops.  Here combine two delicious things— a Bacon Cheeseburger AND a bowl of Mac & Cheese.  I threw an avocado on top because that’s how I roll.  For some reason my brain wants to drizzle a little mustard on top, but only do that if your brain thinks it’s a good idea.

  • 1 box prepared  Annie’s Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar
  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper
  • 6 plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • ¼ cup sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 cup plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 pieces cooked bacon, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into small chunks

In a medium skillet, brown meat in a small glug of olive oil over medium-high heat. Season with garlic powder, salt & pepper and cook until meat is browned and some parts have a nice crispy sear on them, about 5-6 minutes.  Cook shells & cheese according to package. Stir beef into prepared shells along with cheddar, tomatoes, bacon and red onion. Top each serving with avocado and serve immediately.


I hope you enjoy these recipes.  I just wanted to say THANK YOU to Annie’s for helping me make this project a reality.  I’ve had this idea few years and here it is,  THANKS TO YOU!

If you’d like to see more Mix-In ideas for Annie’s Mac & Cheese, be sure to follow their Mix-In Mondays series on Instagram with the hashtag #MixInMonday

  • Bri | Bites of Bri

    Genius combinations, as usual! But seriously these are great ideas for getting some protein and veg with mac and cheese.

  • Colleen Welsch

    If he doesn’t like mac and cheese, what does he like?! This is a really cool post. That chili mac and cheese looks especially delightful .

  • Tom @ Raise Your Garden

    My wife and I are just laughing right now because this IS the post anyone with kids needs to read. Cause honestly, don’t all parents buy Annie’s mac N cheese are are looking for ways to spice it up? Add nutrition, whatever. Awesome stuff.

  • Caitlin

    I seriously googled Annie’s mix-ins a week ago! Love all the flavor combos!

  • Michelle @ FullyBellyWornSoles

    These recipes are so interesting! I’ve always just gone for the KD brand and eaten it plain. I feel so bad about eating it, I haven’t in years. But this is making me rethink that whole situation. Can’t wait to try some of these out!


  • Taylor

    My little sister LOVES mac n’ cheese, but I cringe to see her eat it all by itself. I can’t wait to try out these new additions!


  • Rachel


  • Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health

    this is great..i like mac and cheese and ramen noodles a lot esp for those days when i dont want to cook or go out and spend $$$$. I didnt think of doing this with mac and cheese, genius.

  • Reynaul

    This is AWESOME!!!! My 3 year old is just now getting into pasta somewhat. I will definitely be using these ideas. In my effort to convert him I buy the package of these at Costco. Please do more of these, I need all the help I can get! 🙂

  • Millie l Add A Little

    I love the sound of pesto, peas and pancetta! Fantastic post Tracy!!

  • Lori @ RecipeGirl

    Mac and cheese is always the answer! I love these creative recipe ideas!

  • Allyn

    We always did the tuna and peas mac and cheese to mix it up. We called it Tuna Nunu. Super cool, right?! Um…
    I’m really sad you have a kid that doesn’t like it, because eating forkfuls straight from the pot while you’re “making it for the kids” is pretty much the best.

    • Tracy

      Well….I still CAN eat it from the pot while making it for the husband 😉 And the husband actually doesn’t mind eating it from the pot so THAT’S another win. heheh

  • Miranda

    All of these look SO delicious! Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese?!?! I can’t even…

  • fusilliamy

    I can’t decide which one to try first! I don’t know what I’d do if my child didn’t like cheesy pasta. When he finally does like it, he’ll be all like “Moooooom why didnt you make me try this before?!”

  • shelly

    ok now i’m craving boxed mac n cheese. i like the look of the brcooli an cheese and i have a head of broccoli just waiting to be used in my fridge. thanks tracy

  • Jessica @ Living La Vida Holoka

    Are you kidding me right now with these?!? I want to make them all! And breakfast mac’n’cheese? GENIUS!

  • Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking

    Oh wow! I think my favorite is the breakfast mac! I feel like there needs to be a song parody of the Portlandia “Put a Bird on It” about how to make any food breakfasty, “Put an egg on it!”

  • Cat

    WHY ARE YOU SO AWESOME?? This is the coolest post EVER. Thank you so much for sharing more than one option as well. My BF and I get giant cartons of Annie’s from Costco, so we always have some around. I usually just use sriracha, but I love the idea of making it even more complex. I’ll seriously be trying these. Thanks, Tracy!


  • Jess

    I used to make Cam, “ghetto tuna casserole”, she still eats it with her sister except now it’s just peas, canned baby peas. I love all your ideas. Makes it so classy!

  • Heather Christo

    You are SO creative Tracy!! I love all of these ideas. You could also bake it!!

  • Sarah

    Damn, girl. This made my Monday.

  • Jamie

    Arrgh, so brilliant I can’t believe it never occurred to me to dress up boxed mac. Doh! I’m totally feeling a taco version that will come to fruition in my life soon… = )

  • Amanda

    oooooo the jalepeño and chili ones! always looking for ways to jazz up my quick dinners, truly awesome!

  • Barbara

    Wow, I add stuff but it’s never as fancy and creative as this! This post has me very excited! You are awesome 🙂

  • tara

    You’re so creative! These combos sound fantastic. The broccoli and shells or the pesto pea look like they might be my favorite, but the others sound fantastic! Can’t wait to try them, I love Annie’s.

    How does Cooper not like Mac and Cheese or pasta?! Whaaaaat???

  • Tracy

    Oh wow, you are a genius!!! What great ideas!!

  • michelle

    Thank you so much for sharing these ideas! I’ve been adding veg /poached egg / seasoning to my ramen for years, but I never thought to spice up mac & cheese. I love the gourmet baked stuff, but I equally love Annie’s, and nothing beats it when you’re pinched for time and just want to make 1-2 portions. I can’t wait to try the pea and pancetta mix-in!

  • Emily Jayne

    Well this is delightful!

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Next level greatness, Tracy….next level. Though how can you go past the first combination? Actually that & the pesto, pea, pancetta one…too much good x

  • Rachel O.

    I’m in love with this post. Annie’s mac is my go-to lunch/dinner when I just need something quick and easy and delicious. Chili-mac is MY FAVORITE TOO! Actually… I ate it so often when I was pregnant with my son (he’s 9 months old now) that my husband nicknamed him Chili-Mac! I have to admit that more often than not my idea of dressing up my Annie’s mac has been a few dashes of Sriracha, so I am super excited to try some of your combos. When I was a kid, my favorite way to eat boxed mac-n-cheese was with canned tuna and peas mixed in! I haven’t had that in years…

  • Abby

    My favourite way to doctor Annie’s is to add butter, milk, the package of cheese, mayo (makes it creamy) and Imperial Cheddar. Sometimes I add peas or sautéed mushrooms to that, and once we added butter chicken sauce and it was amazing.

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  • Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño

    This is so great! I love how open you are about Cooper’s eating habits. My kids have their preferences too—it can be a real pain in the you know what!

  • Marie

    One of each… please?

  • Amber

    Holy crap. This is amazing.

  • Jen

    Too funny on the timing! I just posted a blog post today on a similar topic. My boyfriend figured out the best way to mix Annie’s Mac & Cheese using all of the regular ingredients, but yielding a much better result! Hope you don’t mind my posting the link:

  • Michelle

    I hated mac and cheese when i was growing up. I loved cheese, and I loved pasta, but mac and cheese was a combo I just didn’t enjoy until I was an adult. (Other things I didn’t enjoy until after college: ice cream, hamburgers. I know.)

    Now of course it’s like I’m making up for lost time with my extreme love of mac and cheese, so many thanks for these stir-in ideas!

  • Tracy | Pale Yellow

    I don’t understand how Cooper doesn’t like mac & cheese? It’s still one of my favorite foods! I love all these jazzed up versions, especially the chili mac & cheese!

  • Denise

    What Amber said! These are amazing, and I love that a basic mac and cheese was dressed up. Not sure which one I want first, Bacon Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese or Shrimp Fajita Mac & Cheese.

  • Lori

    So many fun ideas 🙂

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  • Angelica Golden

    This is just too brilliant. Will definitely be trying a few of these (I’ve got a four and half year old, so there’s at least a year’s supply of Annie’s in my pantry).

  • sherlonya

    So creative! Nice work. I don’t do a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese (my son won’t touch it), but these are some great ideas I can see putting to use. Thanks!

  • Hilda

    O.M.G. I made the Chili Mac & Cheese yesterday to bring for lunch at work and I’m speechless at how good it is. I took a shortcut and bought the canned veggie chili at Trader Joe’s.

    Tracy, thank you so much for such a delicious and easy lunch idea. I bought a few boxes of Annie’s to try out your other variations. I can’t wait!

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  • Emily @ Life on Food

    These are some fancy mac and cheese recipes and I love that they come from a box.

  • Lauren

    Love these ideas, especially the chili Mac! So easy!

  • Super Bowl Food Brainstorm! – Shutterbean


  • Amber

    OK, I’m back again, reading this again and it is still the best “sponsored post” of ALL TIME.

  • Ferg

    On the Roasted Tomato & Sausage Mac & Cheese, I see red peppers in the picture, but not in the recipe, maybe it was forgotten?

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  • Phoenix

    Yum. I love ❤️ annies. These flavourful combos are worth a try. I have a few leftovers of sausages, burgers, shrimp and all spices in my house. Trick my kiddo into trying it he loves annies plain too thank u

  • Mia Dumont

    Thank you for the ideas!
    I admire you sincerely, all those lists! You are so organized!

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