The Best Macaroni Brands to Keep in Your Cupboard

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Whether it's for mac and cheese, a quick skillet supper or pasta salad, you want the best macaroni brands in your pantry for these recipes. Our Test Kitchen tested nine brands and found the best.

Test kitchen preferred the best macaroniTaste of Home

Sure, a box of mac and cheese will do in a pinch, but there’s no beating the homemade variety. Just like any homemade dish, using good ingredients is essential for a delicious result. But when it comes to your pan of baked macaroni, are you sure you’ve got the best pasta in the cupboard to match your carefully chosen cheeses?

Now, we know you don’t have the time to test a dozen boxes of noodles, but that’s where our Test Kitchen comes in! Our pros boiled up plenty of pots of pasta just to find the best for your next macaroni and cheese dinner, pasta salad or other recipes.

How We Tried Macaroni in Our Test Kitchen

The last thing we want from a box of macaroni is a mushy, lackluster noodle, so our Test Kitchen sampled nine brands to find the best. Our pros cooked each pasta to the packaged instruction for al dente noodles, then judged according to these criteria:

  • Flavor: We know it doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, but did the macaroni taste pleasant? Were there any “off” tastes?
  • Texture: Did the noodles boil up al dente according to the package directions? Were the mushy? Gritty?
  • Appearance: How does the macaroni look? Are the noodles a uniform shape? Are they a pleasant color?

Our Test Kitchen-Preferred Macaroni Brands

After boiling up pot after pot of pasta, these brands emerged as our favorites.

Grooviest Macaroni: Barilla Elbows

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When we say this is the grooviest pasta, we mean it literally! Barilla elbows have that classic macaroni shape and ridges—the kind you usually see on rigatoni or cavatappi noodles. Our Test Kitchen pros loved this added bit of texture on these noodles. It made them a bit sturdier and the grooves on each noodle help hold onto more of the sauce. That means these noodles will collect more cheese in that skillet mac and cheese, more dressing in macaroni coleslaw and more chili in that Hoosier chili. That’s exactly what you want for most macaroni recipes.

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Best Texture: De Cecco Elbows No. 81

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Sometimes no matter what you do, pasta turns out a little too soft. But with De Cecco you don’t have to worry about too-soft pasta for a minute! This pasta had a phenomenal al dente texture and didn’t turn to mush when boiled for a minute too long. This pasta held its shape well and gave us the slightly chewy texture we crave from macaroni. This is a great option when you need pasta to hold its texture and not fall to pieces, like in a soup. This pasta fagioli soup is a must-try.

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Best Small Macaroni: DaVinci Signature Elbow Macaroni

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Want a daintier noodle for your chili mac? Then snag a bag of DaVinci Signature elbow macaroni. This pasta was smaller than its competitors but still had spot-on pasta flavor. This smaller shape also helps these noodles boil up a little bit faster. In just five minutes, you can have al dente elbows ready to stir into your favorite dinner.

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Best Budget Option: Great Value Elbows

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Making big pans of macaroni and cheese? Splurge on the cheese and save on the pasta. You can get a 16-ounce box of Great Value elbows for 80 cents! A two-pound box comes in at about $1.30. And for that great price, you get a larger macaroni noodle with a nice pale yellow hue and textbook macaroni flavor.

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What to Make with Elbow Macaroni

Of course, the first thing you think of when you hear macaroni is macaroni and cheese. There are lots of ways to make this classic—all of them delicious. But macaroni can just as easily be used in a pasta salad, pasta casserole or stirred into soup or chili. But these are just the start! Check out all these recipes that start with a box of elbow macaroni.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.