9. SF Gate: Annie’s Mac and Cheese is based in the Bay Area, but Annie is not. Here’s her story.
Everyone I know has a very specific way they make Annie’s Mac and Cheese. I have a few friends that always add a spoonful of pesto to the classic white cheddar and shells, others add frozen peas. Personally, I make my Annie’s with ¼ cup of 5% Fage plain greek yogurt instead of butter and milk, and a generous amount of cracked black pepper.
I’ve never spent much time researching the brand, which was founded by Annie Withey, and which is only second to Kraft in the US in terms of popularity. “In 1984, when Withey was 21, she and her then-husband Andrew Martin came up with the product known as Smartfood in the kitchen of their Boston home. That’s correct: Annie, the Annie’s lady, is also the cheddar popcorn lady.” While Withey was recipe testing for popcorn using powdered cheese, she had the idea to add white cheddar onto pasta, so “she boiled elbow pasta from Kraft, measured an identical amount of white cheddar cheese as was in the Kraft packet, added butter and milk, and then… ‘Whoa!’ was the summation of her first bites.”
“Whoa!” is a good summation of the first time I tasted Annie’s, and I only added more exclamation marks when I switched to making it with yogurt.