Comfort, Love, and Family: Nan’s Mac & Cheese

Let’s face it, mac & cheese is not a “baked good.” Or iiiissss it?

Go back to the great Coffee Talk SNL skits where “I’ll give you a topic…discuss” I just might get verklempt over this discussion.

In my house, Mac & Cheese absolutely is a baked good. If you make your mac & cheese from something like a blue box, bless your heart. Just bless your fuzzy un-foodie-educated heart.

I don’t think we can be friends.

Truth be told, some of the better farm stand style bakeries I’ve entered have warm, homemade (aka not from a blue box) food on hand that bring you back to moments of comfort in the kitchen. Moments of love that’s come from food. And moments of family memories where everyone was gathered around the table.

Think about the days where you took your babies to a really good apple farm to pick apples in the Fall, and then you walked in to pay for the bushel (that you knew 1/2 of which was going to rot, but damn picking them apples was so much fun), and you smelled some incredible soup, or baked mac & cheese, or cookies. Yeah, you know bought them, devoured them, and reminisced about “the good ole’ days” on some picnic table outside.

I still do it with my 17 & 19 year old babies almost every year. It’s their nostalgia for when they’re in their “40s is the new 20s” phase.

Truthfully, these places understand Marketing 101 at its core.

Everyone sing Kumbaya, now because we’ve all had a moment of nostalgia about family.

Besides, my blog, my rules kinda deal here. So in this house, brah, Mac & Cheese is a goddamned baked good.

Here’s my food nostalgia. My parents version of mac & cheese was this disgusting rendition which was made like this: boil elbows, drain, put back in pot. Shred cheddar cheese into pan, put in a few pads of butter, maybe 1/4 cup of milk. Stir. Serve.

You should feel sorry for me. I would’ve been better off with the blue box shit.

No wonder I taught myself to bake and cook. I’d starve otherwise.

The first time I had real Mac & Cheese was when I met my husband’s family back in college, and it was a food epiphany. THIS was real Mac & Cheese, as the food gods intended it to be. And I was hooked.

IMG_7029
Ummm, yeah. This is a well loved recipe.

We’ve made this recipe so many times, and we’ve almost burned the house down, if you can’t tell.

This recipe comes from my husband’s Great Aunt Arlene – his grandma’s sister. It’s the same recipe his Nan made…so I’ve always called it Nan’s Mac & Cheese. It’s dated 1988, but this is likely a recipe she’s had in her family since Lord knows when. She’s fairly ancient.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 8 oz cooked macaroni (2 cup dry)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or croutons

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degree F.
  • Butter, or use cooking spray to grease, a 2 qt casserole dish.
  • Cook macaroni as directed on package. Drain. Dump macaroni into greased casserole dish.
  • In 2 qt saucepan, melt butter.
  • Next add flour, salt, pepper, and mustard to create a roux. Cook until bubbly, but do not brown.
  • Slowly whisk in milk, whisking until roux is smooth and fully incorporated into milk.
  • Add shredded cheddar cheese, stirring quite often, until cheese is fully melted.
  • Pour cheese sauce over cooked macaroni and stir to incorporate through all noodles.
  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs or croutons on top of noodles.
  • Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes.
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The cheese sauce should be thick yet viscous.
IMG_7032
Baked magic. Yes, this is a baked good in our house.

A few ways to mix things up with Nan’s Mac & Cheese:

  • Change up the noodles – rotini, penne, maybe even shells. Just make sure there are ridges. You want that cheese sauce to hug the noodles for dear life.
  • Play with various types of cheeses. I’ve used cheddar – orange, white, sharp, mild, and every combination therein – mozzarella, parmesan, even taco cheese. Play with what cheeses make you happy. You won’t be sad.
  • I always use seasoned breadcrumbs. Just a wee bit more flavor. The whole wheat adds a nice nutty crunch…as if my family needs any more nuttiness…

Enjoy every moment of nostalgia this recipe brings.

And yes, it’s a baked good in this house.

Should be in yours, too.

 

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