I remember the first time I tried to make macaroni and cheese. I was a kid, maybe about 14/15 and I decided that after watching my mother cook the dish numerous times, I felt confident in my ability to pull it off. I gathered the ingredients I'd seen my mom reach for and set about to try to recreate her famous baked mac and cheese. At first, I thought I'd pulled it off. It looked like my mom's dish and smelled like it too.
I scooped a heaping cheesy spoonful of noodles into my waiting bowl, grabbed a fork, and prepared to be pleased as punch with myself for effortlessly pulling off a meal that I'd heard was difficult for others to execute.
It was a disaster.
The noodles were overcooked and had disintegrated into a starchy mush. The cheese that I had meticulously shredded? Yea I didn't use nearly enough of it. Also, in my inexperience, I thought the cheese would provide enough salt so I didn't add any additional seasoning. Big mistake. I threw that disaster in the trash and didn't try to make another mac and cheese for years.
In the decades since, I've attempted to remake my mother's recipe and truthfully, I still haven't gotten it down. I decided to stop trying and just create my own. That's where this recipe came from. I took bits of things I loved from my mother's recipe--the custardy filling, Lawry's seasoning salt, and mounds of cheese--and added my own spin. The results? A mac and cheese dish that I'm finally proud of and ready to confidently share with you.
What Makes This Recipe Good?
Unlike most macaroni recipes, this one doesn't use a béchamel sauce as the base. Don't get me wrong, I love a cheese sauce (who in their right mind does?) but that's been done before and I don't want to add an additional cooking step that might stress you out. That's why I love this cheese custard filling. The mixture of eggs, sour cream, half & half, and buttermilk create a creamy base for the noodles to continue cooking in.
The consistency of the baked mac and cheese is fluffy, bouncy, and gooey. Basically, perfection.
Tools You'll Need?
Pro Tips To Help You Out
DO use freshly grated cheese. I've baked this recipe with store-bought, pre-grated cheese and it doesn't turn out the same. The cheese doesn't melt the the way I like and the flavor is different. That being said, if grating cheese is too arduous for you or you just plain don't want to do it, there are some packaged cheeses that will work in a pinch. Tillamook, Sargento, and Trader Joe's grated cheeses are the best substitutions.
DO undercook the macaroni noodles slightly. I learned the hard way that cooking noodles too far will give you noodle mash and that is no bueno.
DO add a touch of chicken bouillon powder to your seasoning. Just a 1/2 teaspoon or so. It helps to round out the flavors.
Here's What You Should Serve This With:
Thank you so much for supporting me and trusting me with the meals you share with your loved ones. It means the world to me :) Happy cooking.