Rebecca is a retired special education teacher. She earned a master's degree at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA.
Mac n' Cheese Like Mom Used to Make
Macaroni and cheese, better known as mac n' cheese is at the top of the list for favorite American comfort foods. Like many people, I graduated from mac n' cheese dinner kits to trying out various recipes for the homemade stuff. Tons of them live on the internet, in magazines, and in cookbooks.
But it was years before I found out why my mac n' cheese just didn't quite live up to the mac n' cheese my mom made years ago. I made the discovery while going through her old recipe book.
An egg. That was the difference. After a little research, turns out it's called baked or Southern-style macaroni and cheese. It made sense.
Mom's mac n' cheese is so simple to make. Unlike stovetop recipes, this dish is baked in a slow to moderate oven for 45 minutes. But the taste and texture are worth the wait.
The recipe only calls for four ingredients not including any spices. Unlike stovetop recipes, butter is eliminated. And like any mac n' cheese, you can vary the recipe. Sometimes I add a little dry mustard. At other times, I use more than one kind of cheese. For this one, I used a quarter cup of grated parmesan in addition to the grated cheddar.
You're not limited to shredded cheeses either, since the cheese is layered with the noodles.
Here's Mom's recipe for Southern baked mac n' cheese.
resource: Smithsonian Magazine
Ingredients for Baked Mac n' Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups macaroni, cooked & drained
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- dash pepper
- Layer the macaroni with the cheese in a 2-quart baking dish.
- Don't add the top layer of cheese yet.
- Beat together the egg, salt, pepper, and milk.
- Pour the mixture over the macaroni and cheese.
- Add more milk if the mixture doesn't come to the top.
- Add the top layer of cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until slightly browned and bubbly.
History of Mac n' Cheese
As far as food historians can determine, mac n' cheese hails from Northern Europe. A scribbled recipe from 1769 is the earliest one found. The cheesy pasta dish was first served in the United States by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 at a state dinner. It was one of the fashionable pasta dishes he had discovered while visiting France. He returned with a pasta machine and a stack of recipes.
Somehow, by 1937 the creamy comfort casserole had made its way into a boxed meal. Kraft Foods introduced America to its iconic macaroni and cheese dinner. All you had to do was boil the dried pasta and mix the processed powdered cheese into heated milk and butter. It came along at a very opportune time since for 19 cents it fed a family of four and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression.
Then in 1953, Better Homes & Gardens cookbook published a recipe for a creamy sauce with a base made of melted Velveeta cheese and cream of mushroom soup. Boxed Velveeta Shells & Cheese was born, and college students and young parents everywhere upgraded to the box that advertised "made with real cheese."
Over the years, many top chefs have attempted to "take back the mac" by adding their signature twist to this classic dish. At gourmet restaurants, you'll find it served steamed in melted brie and with ingredients like fresh mushrooms, figs, and herbs. Southern gal Paula Deen, formerly of Food Network wraps slivers of it in bacon and flash fries it.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on September 13, 2021:
Mac n Cheese Ice cream, I think that is too bold for a meal for me. LOL
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 13, 2021:
Yes, it is, JP. I love it. I want to try the mac n cheese ice cream!
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on September 11, 2021:
This is a true comfort food. We usually use several kinds of cheeses since my daughter loves cheese.
Rebecca Mealey (author) from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 11, 2021:
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 11, 2021:
I really like mac n' cheese but I haven't made it from scratch in a long time. Thank you for this good recipe, Rebecca. I enjoyed reading the history also.