Nothing beats the smooth, creamy taste of homemade mac and cheese. This is why it is wildly sought-after. That distinct taste and flavor which endears this dish to the heart and families of many, cannot be captured by the store-bought kind.
There are several ways of making mac and cheese, but the good old southern recipe always takes the cake. Why, you ask? The southern baked mac and cheese is full of flavor, super creamy, and has a unique texture like no other. It’s like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. If you are looking for a dish that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike, this is it. From the buttery sauce to the cheesy pasta, this is one meal that will have your family requesting for seconds. The best part is, it can be prepared in an hour or less so stick with us as we reveal the best mac and cheese recipe.
What Kind of Mac and Cheese to Use
Great recipes for real soul food dishes like southern mac and cheese are hard to come by. They are normally passed down from generation to generation and guarded jealously within the family. To get an authentic dish of southern mac and cheese from the look, down to the taste, you need the right ingredients. Your choice of ingredients is the difference between normal, bland mac and cheese and scrumptious southern mac and cheese. The two most important ingredients for this dish are macaroni and cheese, as is evident in the name. Therefore, you have to source for the best of both.
Not any kind of cheese will do. Powdery cheese is a no-no. You don’t want your dish to taste like pasta soaked in mild cheese. Also, stay away from the pre-shredded bagged cheese as it usually comes out dry. The best cheese for southern mac and cheese is cheddar, especially sharp cheddar. Using medium or mild cheddar all through will make your dish soppy and plain. If you would love to try out different types of cheese in your dish, in addition to cheddar, you could add Jack cheese, mozzarella and Velveeta. If you want your dish to have a distinct smoky flavor, use smoked cheese. Your choice of cheese determines not only the taste but also the texture and flavor of your dish. So, alterations may result in a flavorless dish.
Though the name of the dish is mac and cheese, a lot of people substitute macaroni for some other pasta. As fun as it is, you have to be careful because your choice of pasta can make or mar your dish. If you want to be adventurous and try out other pasta, do not use slender or long pasta. As a rule of thumb, stay away from any pasta that twirls around a fork such as spaghetti or linguini. The perfect pasta should be bulky enough to capture cheese in its corners. You could substitute macaroni with Cavatappi, pasta shells, ziti, rotini or elbow macaroni.
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- 2 spoons of butter
- 3 cups of raw macaroni
- 2 cups of whole milk
- ½ spoon of paprika
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 eggs
- ½ spoon of onion powder
- ½ spoon of salt
- ¼ spoon of black pepper
- 4 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 cups of mild cheddar shreds
- 1 cup of jack cheese, smoked cheddar or Velveeta cheese (optional)
Tip: The milk must be whole or 2%. Skimmed milk is not to be used as it is not as rich and will diminish the flavor of the dish. Using lower-fat substitutes will make your southern mac and cheese flat and rough.
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- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pour 6 cups of water into a pot and add 2 spoons of salt to it. It is important to salt the water so the pasta doesn’t taste plain. Plain pasta will make your southern mac and cheese less flavorful.
- When it boils, add the pasta and cook until it is al dente. Be sure not to overcook it as it will be fully cooked in the oven. You don’t want to use soggy macaroni for your dish.
- Drain the pasta and rinse it under cool running water. Set it aside.
- In your mixing bowl, beat the eggs until it is light. Add the milk and continue to mix it.
- Add the cheeses and the heavy cream except for the smoked cheddar.
- Stir continuously to combine the mixture properly
- Add salt and black pepper, then taste the mixture. Also add other spices like paprika, onion powder, etc.
- Spray your baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or use melted butter to grease the baking dish.
- Pour macaroni into the baking dish.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and be sure it is evenly spread
- Add the smoked cheese at this point. If you are using the Jack cheese or Velveeta, add it too. The textured crust on top of the dish is one of the major differences between normal mac and cheese, and southern baked mac and cheese.
- Sprinkle a little pepper and paprika.
- Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes on 350°F. Do not bake longer than necessary so as not to lose its consistency and become dry.
- When it is done, the cheese will be bubbly and the dish golden brown. After you take it out of the oven, it may be a bit shaky. Allow it cool for about 15 minutes or till it fully sets.
- Dig in!
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The richness, texture and flavor of this southern mac and cheese will make you swear off other varieties of mac and cheese. You can make this for the holidays, the weekends, or for a dinner party. If you’re making it for yourself and you can’t finish it at a sitting, add a little more milk before baking. Also, bake it at 400°F so it is brownish rather than golden-brown. Wrap the remnant and put it in your fridge. It is best eaten within a week of making it. Bon appétit!
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