50 Women Game Changers in Food: #22, Amanda Hesser

Amanda grew up in a family where everyone cooked so it was something that came naturally. While in college getting a degree in economics and finance, she realized she still needed food to be part of her life. She took a job at Michaela's Bakery in Cambridge (now called Rialto) and after graduating from college, ended up With a grant from Les Dames d'Escoffier, working in bakeries and restaurants in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France.

While in France, Amanda worked for Anne Willan (#27 on our list of game changers and the founder of Ecole de Cuisine LaVar), living in her house and helping her write cookbooks. During this time, Hesser's writings began to appear in newspapers and magazines. There was a gardener at Anne's house she befriended which gave her the idea to write her first book, The Cook and The Gardener and she returned to the states and finished the book.

Following publication, Hesser was hired as a food reporter for The New York Times. Since, she has written the award-winning books Cooking for Mr. Latte (really a memoir about her courtship with her husband Tad Friend) and edited the essay collection, Eat, Memory. Then came a New York Times bestseller (which took 5 years to test and write) and the winner of a James Beard award: The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which Merrill Stubbs, chef and food writer, assisted in writing.

During the entire time Amanda and Merrill were cooking and writing the Essential New York Times Cookbook, they had conversations about what was happening on line and how wonderful it would be to crowd source recipes. They decided to do an experiment and create a contest for the best 52 recipes of the year by the week. (Hence the name Food52) Amanda and Merrill have created a real business with the best home chefs across America under the umbrella of Food52. They recently published The Food52 Cookbook.

Amanda and her husband live in Brooklyn with their twins, Walker and Addie.

I've already posted a fabulous Hesser recipe...Lemon Chicken....and had been tempted by a photo of her mac and cheese I'd seen around the same time. This post finally gave me an excuse to make it. Wow. The calories. But it was the best (and simplest) mac and cheese I've ever eaten, especially if you love it crunchy around the edges the way I do. :)

Amanda Hesser's Baking Sheet Mac and Cheese


3 tablespoons butter 
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated 
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated 
1 pound pasta spirals (or other small shape) 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne  
2/3 cup whole milk


Heat oven to 475 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Combine the grated cheeses and set aside 2 heaping cups for topping.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes. Drain.
In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne and salt to taste. Spread the mixture in the baking sheet and evenly pour the milk over the surface. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top, dot with the remaining butter ( I didn't use this extra butter on top...insult to injury) and bake, uncovered, until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes.

Join Mary from One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets 
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Kathleen Van Bruinisse - Bake Away with Me 
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Martha - Lines from Linderhof
Amy - Beloved Green

 Ciao Chow Linda
Nancy - Picadillo
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen


  1. I've been looking for a super cheesy m&c. Is it creamy? It looks delish!

  2. I like crunch around the edges too in mac & cheese. Looks and sounds fabulous.

    I enjoyed reading about Amanda as I knew very little about her. I received The Essential NY Times cookbook last Christmas, probably because since I was a young bride, I've loved all of the NY Times cookbooks. But that was in the day of Craig Claibourne & Pierre Franey. I try not to be negative, but I was a tad disappointed in the tomb she created in her Essentials cookbook and it mostly sits on the shelf. I thought is seemed outdated without photos and I even learned to cook without photos to guide me. Guess I've gotten spoiled with all of the great blogs out there.

  3. As soon as you mentioned your choice for this weeks challenge I ran out and found the best cheeses to make my own version from my favourite recipe. I am sure Amanda's is amazing!!!!!!I just love the crunchy bits, so this is pure genius!!

  4. Just when I think I've made every version of mac and cheese out there, another comes along. I love how simple this process is, and the crunch that must come from baking it on a baking sheet sounds wonderful. Great choice.

  5. OH. MYGOSH. I do love it crispy around the edges...and I'm totally scared that I'd eat the whole batch, it looks so delicious!

  6. Mac & cheese reminds my of my childhood. This one looks really good! I'm always ready to try a new version of this classic.



  7. I never made mac and cheese in my life. Perhaps I should start right now. Thanks for introducing us to Amanda.

  8. Wow! That looks delicious,Barbara!

  9. Now that is a simple and decadent meal. What a treat!

  10. No matter how many mac and cheese recipes I have, I can never resist another good one! I've always liked Amanda Hesser, followed her column in the Times and read the Mr Latte book. She's dropped off my radar in recent years so thanks for the reminder to see what she's up to again.

  11. The crispy bits are our favorites, and we always end up fighting for those treasured edges. This will solve all our mac & cheese squabbles! Yay! And someone just gave me sweet potatoes. Now I know what to do with them!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  12. I too love mac and chees crunchy on the edges. Is there any other way? The ingredients are so simple. I may make this tonight except with penne. Thanks for sharing.

  13. What a great synopsis of Amanda Hesser's life and accomplishments, thanks! This mac cheese sounds wonderful!

  14. What a perfect fall dish. The entire world loves mac n' cheese and you've given us a great recipe for it. Your photos have made me hungry and this was a perfect choice to illustrate her recipes. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  15. I'm the exception. I want the creamy, soft center in a regular tub of mac 'n cheese. I don't like the edges, I don't like crunch... and I managed to marry a man with the same notions about mac 'n cheese.

  16. i prefer this lady than the previous one :!!! Pierre

  17. My mouth is watering just looking at that mac and cheese!

  18. I do want to make Amanda's Mac and Cheese. Your photo with the crunchy exterior really sold it.

  19. Pure and simple ... so wonderful! Mac & cheese is my favorite comfort food ... I love that there are a kazillion different takes on it 'out there', but I always seem to return to the simplest one ... this is a great recipe! Good choice for highlighting AH ... she does excel with recipes with a few good ingredients and technique that does mask their flavours too much!

  20. OOPPS! ... technique that DOESN'T mask their flavours ... sorry!

  21. oh, just thinking about all the crispy edges excites me very much. :)

  22. There are different types of mac and cheese; those with a roux and those without. Even though I don't eat a lot of cheese any more I fondly remember the days when I ate Mac 'n cheese like the one in this recipe.

  23. Amanda sounds like she's living a dream life. Incredible. I have not read any of her books but I want to look for them now.

    The mac-n-cheese looks extra cheesy which is the best if you ask me.

  24. Great! thanks for the share!



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