Growing up in the North, I was under the mistaken thought that all mac and cheese came from a pretty blue box. I didn’t even realize that there was another kind. The first time I tried baked macaroni and cheese, I’m pretty sure the heavens opened and the angels sang “Be ye changed and eat no more from blue boxes!” It definitely changed the way I “cheese” for all time. No Southern feast is complete without at least one (usually multiple) baking dishes of ooey, gooey melted cheesy loveliness. Now you know why they fought for Dixie. They say it was about States’ rights, but it was really about Mac and Cheese. I’m absolutely sure of it.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
3 cups dry elbow macaroni
1 can evaporated milk
8 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter or margarine, cubed
Boil macaroni until it is “au dente”– it should still be firm and have a nice “bite” to it. Drain and cool the macaroni until ready to use. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. You will be making several layers in the pan. First, spread half of your cooled and drained macaroni in the pan. Place half of your butter pats over the cooled macaroni (this makes it very rich and to die for delicious, but you can omit the butter if you like). For the next layer, add 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, spreading it evenly over the macaroni. Now, spread the rest of the macaroni, another layer of butter pats, if desired, and the rest of the cheese. Pour the can of evaporated milk evenly over the top of the casserole. Bake uncovered at 375 for roughly 40-45 minutes, until the macaroni is golden brown and bubbling.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
This recipe is so easy, and it warms you from the inside, out. Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how easy it is to make. Generally, I make 1/2 a casserole, since we are a small family. So keep in mind that the pictures will reflect a smaller amount than the original recipe calls for. If you want to use half the amounts, the evaporated milk freezes great for next time– just thaw and use, which is what I am doing, today.
Now, let’s talk cheese . . . Ah yes . . . one of my favorite topics. The original recipe calls for shredded cheddar cheese, but you can use any cheese that you like. Today, I am using a mixture of sharp cheddar and mozzarella, because that’s what I have on hand. The original recipe calls for classic cheddar, only. So channel your inner mouse, smile, and say CHEEESE.
You can use any kind of noodles that you like, too– I am using classic elbows, but I have also used gluten free noodles, penne, ziti, bowties . . . seriously. (No. “Seriously” is not a noodle. Perhaps it should be. Perhaps then it would be less . . . SERIOUS.). This recipe is about as easy going as you can get. Boil your noodles until they are cooked, but not completely floppy and saturated. They should still have a nice bite to them. When the noodles are done, drain them until you’re ready to use them.
Now . . . let’s get this assembly line going! 🙂 Like I said, I am making a half recipe, so I am making only 1 layer, and I’m using a 10″ cast iron skillet. If you are using the traditional 9×13 casserole dish, you will be making 2 layers. Spray your pan lightly with cooking spray to cut down on sticking, and put down a layer of macaroni. Top with a few pats of butter, if you want– it makes this dish so sinful and rich, it should come with its own priest and confessional. 😉 Butter covers a multitude of sins.
Sprinkle your cheese over the macaroni. If you are making 1 layer, use only 1 (4 cup) bag of shredded cheese. If you are making the traditional casserole, place 1 bag of cheese, then another layer of macaroni/butter, then the final bag of cheese on top.
Pour the evaporated milk as evenly as you can over everything. You will use 1/2 a can of evaporated milk if you are making half a recipe. Sometimes when you get “in the zone” in the kitchen, it’s easy to forget when you halve recipes, and you don’t want to add the entire can, accidentally, if you are making only half a recipe. Sometimes I take the piece of paper I’ve written my recipe on and fold it in half, when I’m making half a recipe. Then, each time I have to turn it over to read the ingredients, I remember that my folded in half paper means half of what it says. You’re welcome.
Bake your macaroni at 375 until it is golden brown and bubbly. It takes roughly 40-45 minutes, in my oven, to achieve maximum cheesy magic. Mmmmm. Just look at that. Seriously. You almost want to reach a fork through the computer and grab some.
Make this macaroni and cheese the next time you have a church potluck, and I guarantee you’ll bring home an empty dish. Bring it to a new mom desperate for sleep who is struggling to survive . . . and watch her face light up. Or just make some for your own family, for supper. And don’t forget to get some for yourself.
Let that golden, bubbling cheese speak for itself. Everyone can speak “cheese,” no matter what your native tongue is.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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