I grew up in the Southern part of US. And what everyone now calls “comfort food” was just regular ‘ole food to us. Southern food is rich – with dishes like fried okra, ribs, creamed corn, BBQ, buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes and such being part of the everyday diet. When I go home and visit my mother in North Carolina every year, I start thinking about my mother’s cooking…and when she asks me, “do you want me to make anything special for you?,” it’s her homemade mac and cheese that tops the list.
Mother’s baked mac and cheese is a very simple recipe, but often the most stunning meals are the simplest. It’s the combination of the creamy, cheesy interior and the oven-browned top that entices everyone to take second and third servings. We like to pretend it is one of the side dishes for the meal, but in reality it’s the main event.
A little warning: once you start making and gobbling this dish, it is hard to stop. I myself, have cravings for it at least fortnightly ,and for those I have served it to, they always request that I make it again.
Mother’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese
1 pkg (8oz) elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
8 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
Cook macaroni. Melt butter and remove from heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring. Simmer 1 minute. Stir in 1 ½ cup cheese and macaroni. Pour into 1 ½ quart casserole and sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake 15 – 20 minutes.
Variations: If you want to make a more “gourmet” version as I occasionally do, consider substituting half the cheddar cheese with gruyere and adding in a ¼tsp of nutmeg. Mixing in chopped pancetta is a nice touch as well.