As is the case with most beloved pasta dishes, the origin of macaroni and cheese can be traced to Italy. A recipe called de lasanis in the 13th century Italian cookbook “Liber de Coquina” combined sheet pasta — cut into 2-inch squares and cooked in water — with grated cheese, such as parmesan. The cheesy pasta dish became popular across Europe, but didn’t arrive in the United States until the early 19th century.
In 1784, James Hemings, who was enslaved by Thomas Jefferson, traveled to France with Jefferson for the purpose of training in French cooking techniques, becoming the first American to be trained as a French chef. It was on this trip where Jefferson first encountered and enjoyed macaroni and cheese, which Hemings recreated with his own twist. Jefferson preferred Hemings’ version, which ended up being served at a state dinner hosted by Jefferson at the White House in the early 1800s.
After being introduced to America’s elite, macaroni and cheese became more widely enjoyed across the nation, especially once Kraft Foods created its easy and affordable Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in 1937. Ever since, this comforting, cheesy dish has been tantalizing the taste buds of people from all walks of life.
Whichever way you like your mac ‘n’ cheese — whether it’s in a baked casserole form or loaded with meats and veggies — here are 27 Sonoma County restaurants that will accommodate your favorite comfort food fix. Click through the above gallery for our top picks.
Belly Left Coast Kitchen, Three Hog Mac & Cheese, $15.50: With smoked applewood bacon, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo, this mac is a meat lover’s paradise.
523 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-526-5787, bellyleftcoastkitchenandtaproom.com
Bird and the Bottle, Craft Mac & Cheese, $12: Smoked cheddar with crispy kale and a secret ingredient adds a touch of sophistication to this gooey, nostalgic craft mac ‘n’ cheese.
1055 4th St., Santa Rosa, 707-568-4000, birdandthebottle.com
Franchettis’ Gasthaus + Kitchen, Käsespätzle (German Cheesy Noodles), $10: House-made spätzle with butterkäse (butter cheese) and caramelized onions. Cauliflower Mac N Cheese, $9: A Sunday brunch-only dish made with tender cauliflower, mascarpone, butterkäse, sautéed leeks, hazelnut and sage.
1229 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-526-1229, franchettis.com
Jackson’s Bar and Oven, Mac & Cheese, $15: A rich gruyere mac topped with toasted bacon bread crumbs. Lobster Mac, $30: Generous amounts of lobster in the classic gruyere mac with bacon bread crumbs.
135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-545-6900, jacksonsbarandoven.com
Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, Macaroni & Cheese, $9: Baked macaroni with gruyere cheese and caramelized onions.
714 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 707-568-4404, starkrestaurants.com/stark-restaurant/montis
Stark’s Steak and Seafood, Four Cheese Mac with Dijon, $14: Dijon-infused mac with four cheeses for an exceptionally rich, velvety dish. Black Truffle & Goat Cheese Mac, $18: The truffles and goat cheese add a savory, tangy bite to this mac, topped with chives for a touch of freshness.
521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-5100, starkrestaurants.com/stark-restaurant/starks-steak-seafood
Steele & Hops, Bacon Mac & Cheese, $14: Shells in a creamy house cheese sauce (cheddar, jack and smoked gouda) topped with chunks of bacon and bread crumbs.
1901 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-523-2201, steeleandhops.com
Third Street Aleworks, Aleworks Deluxe Mac ‘n’ Cheese, $14.95: Elbow macaroni baked in a house béchamel sauce with garlic bread crumb topping and served with garlic bread. Add broccoli, spinach or mushrooms for $1 each; add smoked bacon, pulled pork or grilled chicken for $2 each.
610 3rd St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-3060, thirdstreetaleworks.com
Willie’s Wine Bar, Wild Mushroom Mac & Cheese, $14: Made with savory mushrooms and a mild blue cheese-like cambozola.
1415 Town and Country Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-526-3096, starkrestaurants.com/stark-restaurant/willis-wine-bar
Salt & Stone, Truffle Mac & Cheese, $12: A rich, creamy mac in a four cheese sauce and topped with toasted bread crumbs.
9900 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-6326, saltstonekenwood.com
Tips Roadside, Skillet Mac-N-Cheese, $12 for regular portion, $17 for large: Shells with Petaluma Creamery white cheddar and jack cheese, topped with green onions and bread crumbs. Add bacon and smoked mushrooms for $5 each.
8445 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-509-0078, tipsroadside.com
Amy’s Drive Thru, Broccoli Cheddar Mac, $5.59: This fast food mac with cheddar, juicy broccoli and bread crumb topping can be made vegan for an additional 50 cents. Top with a scoop of Amy’s savory vegetarian chili for 75 cents.
58 Golf Course Drive W., Rohnert Park, 707-755-3629, amysdrivethru.com
Bear Republic Brewing Co., Brewers’ Mac & Cheese, $12: Classic elbow pasta in a mixed cheese sauce and finished with bread crumbs. Ghost Pepper Mac & Cheese, $14: Elbow pasta in a spicy ghost pepper jack cheese sauce. Add jalapeños for 50 cents, hickory-smoked bacon for $2 and wild game chili for $2.50 to either mac ‘n’ cheese dish.
5000 Roberts Lake Road, Rohnert Park, 707-585-2722, bearrepublic.com
Daily Grill, Loaded Mac & Cheese, $15: Fontina, gruyere and cheddar mac drizzled with sour cream and topped with green onions and double-smoked bacon.
630 Park Court, Rohnert Park, 707-585-7505, dailygrill.com
Underwood Bar & Bistro, Macaroni & Cheese, $9: Bubbling, rich mac topped with toasted bread crumbs. Add pancetta (pork belly) for $3.
9113 Graton Road, Graton, 707-823-7023, underwoodgraton.com
Seared, Lobster Mac, $20: Cavatappi pasta smothered in a fondue of Valley Ford Cheese and Creamery’s “Highway 1” fontina with smoked bacon, Maine lobster and summer squash.
170 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-762-5997, petalumaseared.com
Speakeasy, Lobster Mac + Cheese, $14: Sweet, meaty lobster mingling with cheddar and fontina cheeses, topped with crumbled bacon and herbed bread crumbs — a fan-favorite at Speakeasy.
139 Petaluma Blvd. N., Suite B, Petaluma, 707-776-4631, speakeasypetaluma.com
TAPS, Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese, $10.95: Elbow macaroni in a house-made cheese sauce topped with Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, bread crumbs and chives.
54 East Washington St., Petaluma, 707-763-6700
KIN Windsor, Mac-Daddy Pizza, $17 for 10-inch, $26 for 14-inch: A thick crust pizza with red sauce, shredded mozzarella, applewood smoked bacon and KIN’s white cheddar mac and cheese. Welcome to carb heaven.
740 McClelland Drive, Windsor, 707-837-7546, kinwindsor.com
Sweet T’s Restaurant, Mac & Cheese, $6 for regular, $10 for large: This perfectly cheesy mac side dish exemplifies the classic southern comfort food Sweet T’s is known for. Order a quart of it for $20 to take home and share or make a meal of.
9098 Brooks Road, S., Windsor, 707-687-5185, sweettssouthern.com
Kinsmoke, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, $7.50 for regular, $12.50 for large: Shell pasta full of cheesy goodness is the ultimate side to BBQ favorites such as pulled pork or beef brisket.
304 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-473-8440, kinsmoke.com
West County and Coast
boon eat + drink, boon Mac-N-Cheese, $13: Mycopia mushrooms and truffle bread crumbs make for an outstanding umami-rich mac.
16248 Main St., Guerneville, 707-869-0780, eatatboon.com
Gypsy Cafe, 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese, $13: This bowl of comforting mac ‘n’ cheese features a creamy béchamel sauce, gruyere and cheddar cheese, and a crunchy crust of breadcrumbs and Parmesan. The cavatelli noodles, shaped like corkscrews, catch the sauce well.
162 N. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-861-3825, gypsy-cafe.com
K&L Bistro, Mac & Cheese, $14: Classic elbow pasta coated in a creamy Swiss and gruyere sauce and topped with toasted bread crumbs.
119 S. Main St., Sebastopol, 707-823-6614, klbistro.com
Negri’s, Mac + Cheese, $9.50: This mac ‘n’ cheese, served as a side dish at this historic Italian restaurant in Occidental, includes smoked gouda and Monterey jack. Add pancetta for $3.
3700 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, 707-874-0301, negrisrestaurant.com
Nick’s Cove Restaurant, Cast Iron Mac & Cheese, $14: Aged cheddar, grand cru gruyere and Grana Padano join forces to create a creamy dish with sharp cheddar flavor. Add tender Dungeness crab for $12 for a delightfully crabby mac.
23240 Highway 1, Marshall, 415-663-1033, nickscove.com
Tasca Tasca, Mac & Cheese, price varies on number of tasting plates: Portuguese-style mac ‘n’ cheese with smoky, mildly spicy linguica.
122 West Napa St., Sonoma, 707-996-8272, tascatasca.com