Friday, December 12, 2008

Mommy's Marvelous Macaroni & Cheese

It seemed almost every weekend when I was little, my mom was taking us somewhere to visit with her best friends/church buddies/play sisters. While the kids splashed around in the pool or conjured up fantastic adventures in the basement, Mommy and her girlfriends played Pokeno for pennies and talked about church. Bible-thumpers they were, indeed.

A huge part of those get-togethers, of course, was the eating. My Auntie Tina always brought this butter pound cake that was so juicy and spongy it practically melted between your fingertips. My Auntie Sarah always had fried chicken and mustard greens on the stove, hot and sweet. Auntie Ragland's specialty was black-eyed peas and, if we happened to be at her house on New Year's, chitlins (she was one of the rare women in my mom's life trusted enough to clean them properly). And my mom? A party wasn't a party unless Bettye brought her famous macaroni and cheese, juicy and moist on the inside, a skooch crispy on top. Nobody, and I mean nobody, could touch my mother's famed mac & cheese recipe. I mean, a few tried and all--would show up to Sunday dinners at St. John's Baptist Church with their pitiful offerings. Alas, they were feeble, sorry attempts that could never compare to the delicacy my mother always seemed to whip up faster than you could say, "Let's eat!"

I grew up watching my mother make her mac and cheese--started pitching in when I was nimble enough to grate the huge blocks of sharp cheddar cheese on her beat up grater. A few Thanksgivings before she passed away, I convinced her to give me lessons on some of her most prized recipes; she taught me how to make her homemade stuffing, her sweet potato pie, her southern lemon pound cake, the potato salad, and, the mother of all her recipes, THE mac & cheese. It took me quite some time and a lot of practice to get it to taste like hers, but now my mac & cheese so closely resembles my mom's that my dad is finally convinced I know what I'm doing. This is huge.

During my years of making the mac & cheese, I've added my own twist to it; I don't grate anymore, now that Kroger and Publix have those handy bags of cheese already shredded. And while my mom used only three cheeses--sharp, mild, and American--I use up to 11 in my recipe, including asiago, monterey jack, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, and gouda, among others.

This macaroni and cheese is simply sumptuous—the secret is in the roux. Remember to take your time with the egg, butter, milk and flour mixture; get that right, and this will be the juiciest, cheesiest, yummiest macaroni and cheese you’ve ever tasted! Don’t forget to credit Bettye Millner, my beautiful mom.

For a 9 by 11-inch pan you'll need:

1 ½ small boxes of Mueller's macaroni elbows
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
2 bags of sharp cheddar cheese
2 bags of mild cheddar cheese
4 slices American white and yellow cheese
2 bags of assorted cheeses (like italian six cheese,
monterrey jack cheese, or mexican cheese)
1 stick of butter
about 3 tablespoons of flour
salt and pepper to taste

To cook:

1. Boil your macaroni until tender (put a little oil in the water so the elbows don't stick.

2. Drain the macaroni, then put a layer of macaroni on the bottom of your pan. Then layer the cheese, then macaroni, then cheese. End with cheese.

3. Melt your butter in a pan on medium heat. While the butter is melting, mix your eggs in a large bowl, breaking the yolks. Add milk to the eggs, and put in a little salt and pepper to season; stir until it's all mixed together.

4. After butter is melted, add the flour to the butter and mix so that the flour dissolves into the butter. It'll be liquidy.

5. Pour in milk and egg mixture into the butter and flour mixture in the pan; whisk it until all of it is mixed together and the liquid gets a little thick. DO NOT LET IT GET SUPER THICK OR ELSE IT WON'T DRIP BETWEEN THE LAYERS.

6. Pour the egg/butter/milk mixture into the macaroni and cheese layers; the liquid should reach the top, but do not let it flood the top of the pan.

7. Cover pan with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes to an hour. You'll know it's close to finished when it's bubbling. When it starts to bubble, take the aluminum foil off so that it can brown.

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  1. OH my goodness Denene!

    My mouth is watering just reading this post. Absolutely yum-e!

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. My mouth is watering. The cheese! The goodness! I don't know if I could ever make this recipe properly (my cooking skills stop at boiling water), but I may have to try.

  3. That looks fantastic! And damn, now I'm hungry.
    (great post)

  4. This looks delicious and what a great family tradition to pass on to your little one :-) Thanks for sharing it with us! Can't wait to try it :-)

    Happy Friday!

  5. Thanks Denene! We all know a party aint a party without the macaroni and cheese. My family loves macaroni and cheese.

  6. i have mac and cheese love. seriously, who doesn't? it's carbs and fat! come on now!

  7. OK you are killing me...You post this mouth watering recipe while I am trying to loose weight. I will just have to live vicariously through the picture!

  8. oh gracious that is a LOT of cheese but looks and sounds delish! Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will make it to take to some family we are visiting for Christmas :)

  9. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to try this. Mac & cheese is the one thing that I haven't asked my grandma about. She has shared with me her sweet potato pie, apple cobbler, and chicken & dumplings. I think I've got those down pat!

  10. Yummy, yummy, yummy! I need to ask my grandma to write down her recipes for me, even though it seems like she just knows what she's doing. I don't even think she owns measuring cups or spoons.


  11. Other than salad... "Cheese" is my favorite food group. : )
    I'm planning to try this one out as soon as I get my cholesterol results back (I had a physical on Tuesday, my first one in 7 years!) Maybe I should just make it and indulge before I know the answers!

  12. This is just like my Mom's macaroni recipe! I'm seriously craving some of this right now, sounds like the perfect addition to Sunday dinner. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe (like Tara's grandma my Mom doesn't always give exact quantities for the recipe since she never writes them down)

  13. I love love LOVE homemade mac & cheese... or should I call it baked mac & cheese... or everything BUT box mac & cheese, lol. Whatever you decide to call it, its the very best. I am gonna have to try your mom's recipe though because I know nothing of a roux. Either my grandma omits this step OR she just leaves it out when she told me her recipe. That woman never gives me her complete recipe. I always catch her in the kitchen just as she is adding some secret... like the sour cream in the potato salad!!

  14. Ooooh, I'm going to try this recipe :)

  15. This sound completely scrumptious Denene! 11 different cheeses?? Your recipe puts my mac-and-cheese to shame.

    Isn't it wonderful that your mom sat down with you teach you exactly how to make her recipes? It's like you have a little piece of her with you at all times. My beautiful grandma went to her grave with all of her wonderful recipes and we have no idea how to recreate them. I really wish that we had learned them from her before she passed on.

  16. Denene, you just made my spit beer out on my NEW! keyboard-why did you go there with the chit'lins? My dear aunt Emma, chitlin' master extraordinaire is now dearly departed and my grandma will not "sour her craw" on no one else's chitlin's. History is as rich as this recipe that I'm going to try, I'll get back at you when I do.


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