You’ll love this Southern macaroni and cheese recipe! All-natural, made with real cheddar (no processed or fake cheese here), this creamy concoction of cheesy elbow noodles can be served right off the stove or baked in the oven! Serve this favorite Southern side dish with ribs, meatloaf or chicken fried steak!
Macaroni and cheese is its own food category in the South. You see, there’s meat, potatoes, something green and “mac and cheese” and I’m not talking about the blue box–I’m talking homemade.
You’ll find this Southern side dish in just about every restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon line, and in variations-some include ham, chopped broccoli, or lobster and shrimp. But no matter how you make these fancy variations, you need to start with a good basic recipe like this one.
The Secret to Good Southern Macaroni and Cheese
Most Southern cooks have a few “tried and true” tricks up their sleeves to make things taste better. My Grandmother used to put a pinch of sugar in cabbage…now that I think about it, she put a “pinch” of sugar in most vegetables. This recipe does not have a pinch of sugar, so remain calm.
The secret to a truly delicious and successful macaroni and cheese dish is in the roux. A roux is a combination of equal parts of fat and flour that are cooked on the stove top. In essence, what you’re doing here is making a cheese sauce to combine with the elbow noodles.
You’ll recall there are varying degrees of roux, but this dish uses a light, or blonde roux, as do most cream sauces.
The light, or blonde roux serves as a binding agent for the noodles and melted cheese. Soft cheeses, such as cheddar, inherently contain oil, and as you know, oil and water don’t mix… neither do oily cheese and cooked noodles, so you need something to bind them together. Bingo! It’s a roux!
How to Make a Roux for Southern Macaroni and Cheese
First, get out equal parts of butter and flour, milk and a whisk. Melt the butter in the saucepan; once the butter is liquid, sprinkle in the flour and whisk together.
When you add the flour to the melted butter, it will be clumpy but don’t freak out!
Cook (on medium heat) the melted butter and flour for five minutes then, turn the heat down to medium low and gradually add the milk. Now, grab the whisk and whisk the dickens out of it until all the lumps are gone.
Once you’re at this stage, you’re halfway there! Gradually add shredded cheese to the roux, whisking all along. Add remaining seasonings and spices; taste for salt.
Serve from the stovetop as is, or place in a baking dish for a crispy top!
Ingredients for Cheesy Macaroni
The ingredients for this basic Southern side dish are:
- Elbow Noodles (I like large)
- Blonde Roux (Instruction on how to prepare in recipe below) = butter and flour
- Cheddar cheese
- Onion powder
- Dry mustard
- Salt and ground pepper (white or black)
- Tabasco (optional)
Once you combine the cheese sauce (formally known as Mornay sauce) and elbow noodles, feel free to shred a little more cheddar cheese to the mixture and fold it in with a spatula… this “final touch” provides visible shreds of cheese and makes it even more delectable!
Want a Crispy Topping?
If you want a crunchy, crispy topping on your Southern macaroni and cheese, just pour the ingredients into a lightly oiled baking dish and put it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes! You decide how crispy you want the topping to be!
Craving More? You might like Classic Meatloaf!
Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 lb. large elbow noodles
- 16 oz. Cheddar cheese Block cheese; not pre-shredded
- 1 stick butter
- 3 cups milk See Recipe Notes: Milk
- ½ cup flour
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. dried mustard
- ½ tsp. ground white pepper
- ½ tsp. Louisiana hot sauce (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt to taste
- Shred cheese; set aside
- Prepare elbow noodles in a large stock pot; cook for 9 minutes; drain and return to stockpot
Cheese Sauce Instructions
- In a large pan on medium heat, add butter; once butter has melted, gradually add flour; whisk
- Once flour and butter are combined, gradually add milk, whisking constantly
- Turn the heat to medium low
- Gradually add cheese and continue to stir; if sauce looks too thick, add more milk-See Recipe Notes: Milk
- Add onion powder, dried mustard, ground pepper and Louisiana hot sauce (optional); combine well
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta; combine and taste for salt; add more if desired
- Serve from the stove top-OR-if you want a crispy topping, pour macaroni and cheese into a lightly oiled baking dish
- Turn oven to Broil setting; place baking dish on middle rack; broil until top begins to crisp and brown