The ultimate comfort food is Southern baked macaroni and cheese, commonly known as soul food mac and cheese. No one can resist wonderfully baked mac and cheese, which is creamy, rich, ooey-gooey, and very cheesy, with those crunchy browned cheese edges.
This mac and cheese, a mainstay in soul food and southern cooking, has been passed down through the generations and is only served on rare occasions.
There’s regular macaroni and cheese, and then there’s macaroni and cheese for special occasions, like this one. Rather than starting with a roux, this recipe starts with a milk-and-egg foundation, which gives the dish a very rich, velvety flavor.
Millie Peartree, the owner of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food in the Bronx, has been creating this meal since she was a tiny child. The recipe had been passed down through her family for decades, but due to a large amount of cheese required, it was only served at special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Mac and Cheese Sauce
To begin, this cheesy bechamel sauce is out of this world! Aside from ½ cup half and half (light cream and whole milk), I also used a can of evaporated milk (not to be confused with condensed milk) to give my mac and cheese additional smoothness and texture.
And do you want to know what else I’m going to put in this sauce? Creole Seasoning. Yes! This Southern Baked Mac and Cheese get a boost of flavor by sprinkling it with ½ – 1 teaspoon. Unless you like bland food, I’m telling you it makes a huge difference.
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When it comes to utilizing cheese in this dish, don’t be afraid. Every noodle in this dish was adorned with three different types of cheese. I definitely recommend using a sharp cheddar in your baked mac and cheese for the finest flavor. However, don’t use pre-shredded bagged cheese because it contains preservatives that make it drier than fresh-grated cheese.
My favorite cheeses are sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and jack. You can also use cheeses such as pepper jack, gouda, fontina, and Gruyere.
How Long to Bake Mac and Cheese?
When baking mac and cheese, there is just one rule to follow: don’t bake it for too long or the sauce will evaporate, leaving you with a dry mixture.
You can get the same stretchy cheesy baked mac and cheese with all the heart-melting sauce by baking it for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). You may alternatively bake it at 350°F (177°C) for 30 minutes.
We’ve tried a few Mac and Cheese recipes, but nothing compares to this one, which has a smooth silky sauce that pervades every inch of elbow macaroni.
The overflowing Southern aromas of this baked mac and cheese would make you fall head over heels.
How to Make Baked Mac and Cheese
As soon as the butter has melted, mix in the flour. Continue whisking until the flour and butter are completely combined.
Then, to get rid of the flour taste, heat for about a minute.
Slowly drizzle in the evaporated milk, followed by the half-and-half; you don’t want any lumps in the mixture. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly.
Season with onion and garlic powder, creole spice, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 2 minutes.
After that, whisk in the cheeses (reserving some for later toppings) and continue to stir until everything is melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine evenly.
Top the pasta mixture with the remaining cheese in a cast iron pan or a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish.
Mac and cheese recipe
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 12oz canned evaporated milk
- 1 cup half and half (½ cup cream and 1/2 cup milk)
- ½ -1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ -1 teaspoon creole seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 8-ounce uncooked Macaroni
- ½ cup jack cheese
- Firstly, macaroni should be cooked according to the package guidelines. Then, drain.
- As soon as the butter has melted, mix in the flour. Continue whisking until the flour and butter are completely combined.
- Then, to get rid of the flour flavor, heat for about a minute.
- Slowly drizzle in the evaporated milk, followed by the half-and-half; you don’t want any lumps in the mixture.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Combine spices, onion and garlic powder, creole seasoning, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Mix in the cheeses (save some for subsequent toppings) and stir until everything is melted and evenly blended and smooth. Agg salt and pepper to taste
- Next, add the cooked pasta to the pot and toss to combine evenly.
- Place the pasta mixture in a skillet or a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 375°F, or until brown and bubbly.
Bread Crumb Topping (Optional)
- Firstly, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, stir for 30 seconds, and then add bread crumbs.
- Secondly, cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until aromatic. If desired, season lightly with salt and pepper. Then bake the macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs on top.
If using an egg (optional)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and about ½ cup of the sauce.
Finally, return the egg mixture to the sauce, swirling well to combine. Carry on with the cheese and the rest of the process.
Cheeses and Cheese Sauce
- Pre-shredded bagged cheese is drier, so don’t use it. You’ll have to buy it in chunks and shred it yourself.
- My favorite cheeses are sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and jack. You can also use cheeses such pepper jack, gouda, fontina, and Gruyere.
- You can add more mozzarella cheese to give it a lovely gooey pull in every bite.
- Do not overcook the cheese sauce.
- Special additions like as garlic herbs, dry mustard, crispy fried onion strings, and so on can be added.
- Add chicken breast pieces, spinach, and red bell peppers for added flavor.
- If you wish to save calories, go to low-fat milk instead of evaporated milk and reduce the cheese by half.
- It’s preferable to warm milk before using it. The cooking process is disrupted by cold liquid. Milk that has been heated has a richer flavor than milk that has been chilled.
- To avoid lumps, add roughly 2-3 tablespoons of milk at a time. Before adding more, whisk it in thoroughly. Add all of the half and half at once the can of evaporated milk has been thoroughly mixed in.
Make-Ahead Instructions It can also be prepared in the morning and baked shortly before dinner.
- The sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen, but the pasta must be kept separate from the sauce. The day before you want to bake, combine the sauce and pasta.
- If there are any leftovers, reheat in the microwave before spraying the top with oil or butter to keep it moist.
More Baking Notes
- Make sure you’re using the proper pasta.
- Do not cover cooked mac and cheese with foil since it will steam on the inside, preventing it from getting that slightly crusty golden bubbly top.
Serving: 1cup| Calories: 492kcal (25%) | Carbohydrates: 47g (16%) | Protein: 19g (38%) | Fat: 24g (37%) | Saturated Fat: 15g (94%) | Cholesterol: 72mg (24%) | Sodium: 268mg (12%) | Potassium: 219mg (6%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 1g (1%) | Vitamin A: 765IU (15%) | Vitamin C: 0.2mg| Calcium: 324mg (32%) | Iron: 1.3mg (7%)
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.