The Ultimate: Mac and Cheese

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could go wrong with mac and cheese, since it has only two essential ingredients: pasta and cheese. But our hunt for a perfectly creamy, savory pile of al dente noodles and melted cheddar—with no bits of truffles or lobster mucking up its pure flavor—turned up plenty of too-thick, too-thin, and off-tasting interpretations. Luckily, Brookline’s Publick House gets it exactly right, with an ample portion of orecchiette pasta under a bubbly blanket of white cheddar, Jarlsberg, Asiago, Gorgonzola, and smoked mozzarella. The clam-shaped shells grab just the right amount of cheese, making each bite as crispy-gooey-tender as the last. 1648 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-277-2880,

The Runners-Up

Harvard Gardens

Somewhat on the rich, heavy side, this mac has an extra-crunchy crust and boasts a variety of cheeses. 316 Cambridge St., Boston, 617-523-2727,

Post 390

A crispy, hearty top layer gives great texture, but the addition of bacon and beer—while really, really tasty—feels a bit like cheating. 406 Stuart St., Boston, 617-399-0015,

Parish Café

It’s like your grandma’s mac, covered with crumbly Ritz crackers and smothered in a thick cheese sauce. While not the most remarkable version, it’s familiar and comforting. 361 Boylston St., Boston, 617-247-4777,