Southern Kitchen Bucket List : Mac 'n Cheese

A few years ago my (husband’s) Aunt Carol took the time and energy to thoughtfully compile hundreds of her own recipes for all of the family. She compiled them into a wonderful spiral bound book. It's filled to the brim of recipes we love of hers, quick + easy ones for the kids, and everything in between.

She is always cooking and baking for any large family gatherings we have, and her mac + cheese recipe became a quick favorite among us. We make it time and time again. 

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Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is also so killer, but it includes a “secret” ingredient that makes all the difference, so I'll have to check with Aunt Carol before sharing it. No matter what I do, I can't seem to get my cookies to taste as yummy as hers for some reason!

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To me there were always a few “camps” when it came to mac + cheese. You were either straight from the box (not a chance in my mom's house growing up), or a fan of the creamy + liquid cheese, or the more solid casserole-like, baked mac + cheese. My mom generally made us the latter, and for some time it was the only mac + cheese I knew.

This is part of the Southern Kitchen Bucket List, perfect for this time of year when the weather gets cooler and you need a little comfort food to warm you from the inside.

Family Favorite Macaroni + Cheese

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 cups half-and-half (fat-free)

2 cups milk

2 (8oz) block extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (8oz) block extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 (16oz) pkg elbow macaroni, cooked

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in flour until mixture is smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in salt, black pepper, red pepper and garlic powder. Gradually whisk in half-and-half and milk; cook, whisking constantly, for 8-10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in half of sharp cheddar cheese. Stir in the extra-sharp cheddar cheese until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Combine pasta and cheese mixture, then pour into greased 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining sharp cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. 

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A few tips: use freshly grated cheese whenever possible, and the highest quality cheese you can - it will make all the difference. Sometimes I’ll even just do 8oz worth of a really great cheese and it still elevates the taste and creaminess of the recipe. Also, we like to use the large or  jumbo sized noodles for this one because it captures all the delicious melted cheese just perfectly. I also love to add in a little bit of herb, like thyme. Sometimes I’ll even add some smoked paprika which enhances the cayenne flavor even more.

Thanks Aunt Carol for letting me share this special recipe. My kiddos request it all the time and I know yours soon will too!
 


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