This Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe is perfectly creamy, rich, and decadent with an abundance of different cheeses baked to bubbly perfection. Trust me, this classic dish is about to become your new favorite go-to for family gatherings, potlucks, or simply when you’re craving a big ol’ bowl of cheesy goodness!
Mac and cheese is the epitome of comfort food – creamy, cheesy, and oh-so-satisfying. However, this recipe takes it to the next level. With a flavorful blend of sharp cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere, this southern mac and cheese will have your taste buds dancing with joy. The best part? It has the right amount of kick from black pepper and red pepper flakes, a hint of nutmeg, and mustard to elevate the flavors. So, preheat that oven, grab your apron, and let’s get cookin’!
Why You’ll Love This Southern Mac and Cheese
- No Velveeta Cheese: Say goodbye to fake cheese! This recipe features a blend of real, shredded cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere, giving you that authentic and irresistible cheese flavor.
- Creamy Comfort: Indulge in a bowl of pure comfort with every bite. The creamy cheese sauce coats the tender macaroni, creating the ultimate soul-soothing dish.
- Flavor Explosion: I’ve spiced things up with a dash of black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and mustard, elevating the flavors to a whole new level of deliciousness.
- Easy and Homemade: This baked macaroni and cheese is a breeze to make, yet it tastes like it came straight from a gourmet kitchen. Impress your guests with this homemade goodness!
- Family Favorite: Whether it’s a holiday feast or a casual weeknight dinner, this Southern classic is a hit with kids and adults alike. It’s a timeless recipe that brings everyone together at the table.
Ingredients To Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- Unsalted Butter: Butter is always essential in Southern Mac and Cheese recipes. It adds richness and additional fat, which helps create that lusciously creamy cheese sauce.
- Heavy Cream: The heavy cream takes this mac and cheese to a whole new level of indulgence. It adds a luxurious and silky mouthfeel.
- Half-and-Half: This creamy blend of milk and cream strikes the perfect balance in the cheese sauce, ensuring it’s not overly heavy while still being decadent.
- Ground Black Pepper: A dash of black pepper adds a subtle kick to the dish, complementing the richness of the cheese and balancing out the flavors.
- Red Pepper Flakes: For those who like a little heat, red pepper flakes bring a gentle spiciness that elevates the overall taste without overwhelming the dish.
- Ground Nutmeg: Nutmeg might seem unexpected, but trust me, it works wonders! It adds a warm and aromatic touch to the cheese sauce, giving it a hint of nutty sweetness.
- Ground Mustard: Mustard powder is the flavor booster you didn’t know you needed in mac and cheese. It adds a mild tang and depth to the sauce.
- All-Purpose Flour: Flour acts as a thickening agent, helping the cheese sauce reach that perfect, creamy consistency we’re aiming for.
- Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese: The star of the show! Sharp cheddar cheese brings bold flavor and a tangy bite that forms the base of the southern mac and cheese.
- Shredded Manchego Cheese: This is a hard, sharp Spanish sheep’s milk cheese that has a buttery nutty taste that melts well and is perfect for this recipe.
- Shredded Gruyere Cheese: Gruyere is known for its smooth texture and slightly sweet undertones, contributing to the overall creaminess and richness of the dish.
- Water: Essential for cooking the macaroni to perfection!
- Coarse Salt: Salt is the unsung hero that brings out the flavors in every dish.
- Elbow Macaroni: No mac and cheese recipe is complete without elbow macaroni. It’s a classic!
- Large Eggs: Eggs are essential since they add stability to the baked dish and allow everything to come together.
- Smoked Paprika (optional): For an extra layer of smoky flavor, a sprinkle of smoked paprika on top of the mac and cheese before baking is an excellent addition for those who enjoy a smoky twist.
How To Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- In a heavy saucepan, whisk in cream, half-and-half, and butter over medium-low heat. Add black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and mustard, and whisk in flour. Cook the mixture until there are no more flour lumps.
- Whisk in the cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere. Keep cheese sauce on low heat until ready for the baking dish.
- Using a stockpot or Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Sprinkle in salt. Put in the pasta and cook. The macaroni should not be mushy. Drain and transfer to the prepared baking dish.
- Mix the eggs well into the pasta. Next, pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well. Sprinkle paprika on top if desirable.
- Bake until you have a golden crust.
- Let cool before serving.
Tips For Making The Best Homemade Southern Mac and Cheese
- Don’t Overcook It: Unlike traditional pasta dishes, resist the temptation to cook the macaroni al dente. It will be fully cooked as a finished dish in the oven, soaking up all that cheesy goodness without becoming mushy.
- Patience is Key: When whisking the cheese sauce, keep the heat on medium-low to avoid a grainy texture. Slow and steady wins the race to a smooth and velvety sauce!
- Be Bold with Spices: Embrace the spices! Black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and mustard are the secret ingredients that elevate your mac and cheese from ordinary to extraordinary.
- Golden Crust Perfection: Achieving that irresistible golden crust is an art. For the perfect finish, keep an eye on the baking process, and adjust the time accordingly.
Popular Substitutions & Additions
- Bacon: Craving a savory twist? Add crispy bacon bits to your southern mac and cheese. The smoky flavor will take this classic dish to new heights!
- Gluten-Free: For a gluten-free option, use your favorite gluten-free elbow macaroni and swap all-purpose flour with a gluten-free alternative, like rice flour or cornstarch.
- Extra Shredded Cheese: For an extra crispy and golden crust, sprinkle a little extra shredded cheese on top before baking. You’ll have everyone fighting for those delectable cheesy edges!
- Mix Up the Cheeses: Get creative with your cheese choices! While the classic cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere combo is delicious, feel free to experiment with other flavorful cheeses like fontina, smoked gouda, or even a touch of blue cheese for a unique twist.
- Butternut Squash: Sneak in some extra veggies by blending cooked butternut squash into the cheese sauce. It’ll add a lovely orange hue and a hint of sweetness.
What To Serve With Southern Mac and Cheese
With its creamy, cheesy goodness and golden crust, this Baked Macaroni and Cheese is already a superstar on its own. But why stop there when you can take your meal to a whole new level of deliciousness? Here are some great pairings to elevate your dining experience:
- Butter Swim Biscuits
- BBQ Baby Back Ribs
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- Neck Bones
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Smothered Steak
- Collard Greens
- Cornbread Dressing
How To Store & Reheat Baked Macaroni and Cheese
If you’re planning on storing your leftovers in the same baking dish it was made in, all you need to do is cover it in a thin layer of foil and place it inside the fridge. To reheat it to its bubbling best, simply preheat your oven to 350°F, pop the covered dish in, and let it warm up for around 20 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly again.
How Long Will Baked Macaroni and Cheese Last In The Fridge?
When properly stored, Baked Macaroni and Cheese can last in the fridge for about 3 to 5 days. It’s essential to refrigerate the leftovers only after the dish has cooled down to room temperature to ensure it stays fresh and safe to enjoy.
Can I Freeze Southern Mac and Cheese?
Sure! Once the mac and cheese is fully cooled, transfer it into an airtight container or a freezer-safe resealable bag. When frozen, it can maintain its quality for about 1 to 2 months. Just remember to thaw it thoroughly in the fridge overnight before reheating to enjoy that creamy goodness once again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use different types of cheeses?
Absolutely! Feel free to get creative with the cheese selection. While the recipe calls for shredded sharp cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere, you can experiment with other cheeses to suit your taste preferences. Just ensure they have good melting properties for that perfect gooey texture.
How do I keep this baked macaroni and cheese creamy?
Just avoid overcooking the cheese sauce, as it may result in a grainy texture. Also, when reheating leftovers, consider adding a splash of milk or cream before placing it in the oven to restore its creaminess.
Can I prepare this dish in advance for a party or potluck?
Yes, you can! Follow the instructions until step 5, cover the dish tightly, and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, simply proceed with baking as directed, and you’ll have a piping hot, cheesy dish ready to go.
You’ve now unlocked the secrets to crafting the most delectable Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese! With its creamy goodness, perfectly blended cheeses, and a touch of spice, this dish is sure to become a family favorite and a star at any gathering. Whether you’re enjoying it on its own or pairing it with delightful sides, your taste buds are in for a treat. And remember: the kitchen is your playground, so feel free to put your own twist on this timeless recipe!
More Pasta Recipes
- Lobster Mac And Cheese
- White Cheddar Mac And Cheese
- Cauliflower Mac And Cheese
- Slow Cooker Mac And Cheese
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Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese about 1 pound
- 1 cup shredded manchego cheese about 1/4 pound
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese about 1/4 pound
- 8 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1/2- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika optional
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9×13-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.
- In a heavy saucepan, whisk in cream, half-and-half and 4 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and mustard, and whisk in flour. Cook the mixture about 2 minutes, until there are no more flour lumps. The mixture should not be bubbling. If so, reduce heat.
- Whisk in the cheddar, manchego, and Gruyere. Keep cheese sauce on low heat until ready for the baking dish.
- Using a stockpot or Dutch oven, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Sprinkle in salt. Put in the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. The macaroni should not be mushy. Drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.
- Mix the eggs well into the pasta. Next, pour cheese sauce over macaroni and stir well. Sprinkle paprika on top if desirable.
- Bake for 40 minutes, until you have a golden crust.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.