When cheese meets pasta, beautiful things can happen. And while some restaurants keep their macaroni and cheese dishes perfectly simple, others excel at versions that add everything from bacon to duck to lobster.
All of these recommended mac-and-cheeses are worth the calories. We promise.
Selections by Newsday's food staff.
Dang BBQ, Islip: At this barbecue spot, "smokehouse mac & cheese lasagna" is served in a hot skillet. It boasts layers of lasagna noodles stuffed with macaroni and cheese and pulled pork, and topped with bacon.
The Shed, Huntington: Skillet mac-and-cheese is laced with bits of bacon, corn, slivered jalapenos and scallions at this Huntington eatery.
St. James Public House
St. James Public House, St. James: Applewood-smoked bacon macaroni and cheese is made with three cheeses (American, Cheddar and Monterey jack) and topped with a potato-chip crust at this eatery.
Crabtree's New York & Main
Crabtree's New York & Main, Huntington: Short rib mac and Cheez-Its at Crabtree's New York & Main features a gooey mass of shells slathered in molten, velvety Cheddar and luscious shreds of short rib, showered with crumbled Cheez-Its -- like a childhood dream in a bowl.
Main Road Biscuit Co.
Main Road Biscuit Co., Jamesport: Marissa's mac-and-cheese comes to the table bubbling hot in a generously sized cast-iron skillet at Main Road Biscuit Co. Topped with toasted biscuit crumbs, the macaroni is coated in a winning combination of creamy Cheddar and Gruyère.
Grey Horse Tavern
Grey Horse Tavern, Bayport: The skillet mac and cheese at this spot is super rich with a four-cheese cream sauce, pancetta and toasted bread crumbs.
Schout Bay Tavern
Schout Bay Tavern, Manhasset: The mac and cheese with pork belly and panko crumbs at this ultra-hip spot is lush and addictive.
Mac & Melts
Mac and Melts, Garden City: If you can't decide which variety to order -- the Southwestern with crushed tortilla chips and andouille sausage, the Alpine with Gruyere and smoked Gouda, the Buffalo chicken -- the M&M sampler features a taste of eight varieties of mac and cheese, served in a segmented cast iron skillet.
Smokin' Al's Famous BBQ Joint
Smokin' Al's Famous BBQ Joint, Massapequa Park: The al dente macaroni and cheese at this barbecue spot is impossible to stop eating.
PeraBell Food Bar
PeraBell Food Bar, Patchogue: The four-cheese mac and cheese at this top-notch gastrobpub includes bacon and chives. (Other location at 65 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-740-9494)
Swingbellys Beachside BBQ
Swingbellys Beachside BBQ, Long Beach: One specialty that should not be missed at this eatery is the opulent "mac and Pete," a bowl of creamy, al dente mac and cheese laced with brisket burned ends, topped with crisp fried onions and served with a warm square of cornbread.
George Martin's Grillfire
George Martin's Grillfire, Merrick: The self-described "world's best" mac and cheese is a bowl of creamy goodness topped with toasted herb breadcrumbs. Optional: the addition of Sloppy Joe beef. Other locations in Merrick and Rockville Centre.
Mario's, Melville: The macaroni and cheese pizza -- with or without bacon -- started as a special that was so popular, it will be continued indefinitely. Delectably gooey and rich, we love the clean, simple comfort of meatless elbows enrobed in a confluence of mozzarella, Cheddar and Mexican cheeses. (Not that the bacon version doesn't have its own smoky-salty merits.)
The Good Life
The Good Life, Massapequa Park: The British-style pub makes a three-cheese sauced mac and cheese with a panko-English cheddar crust.
Old Fields, Greenlawn: Here, the macaroni and cheese employs orecchiette pasta baked with cheddar, fontina and Parmesan cheeses and topped with crusted breadcrumbs and herbs.
Sapsuckers Hops & Grub
Sapsuckers Hops & Grub, Huntington: A menu of modern comfort classics (plus an impressive roster of interesting craft beers) includes elbow macaroni in a four-cheese sauce with truffle essence and a herb-breadcrumb crust.