mac & cheese

whether you are a person that cooks daily (like me) or a person that cooks once a week, i have found that pretty much every person has a go to dish that they love and are even confident enough to serve it to guests.  for me, that dish is a baked macaroni and cheese.

growing up in a household with parents and grandparents who cooked regularly, specifically, a grandmother with midwestern/southern roots, we were all about soul food.  when i was in fifth grade, i went to a friend’s house after school and mentioned i was hungry, she told me she could make us some mac and cheese “real quick”.  i was shook.  i had never seen mac and cheese take less than one hour start to finish.  this was the day i discovered that easy mac existed.  now, as a tipsy college student, easy mac definitely did the trick.  pushing 30, i now want something more substantial and would like to cook with ingredients that are actually easy to identify.  so over the years, i have tweaked the mac and cheese recipe my grammy and mom served to us as kids.

for me, meat is not a necessity to make something a meal.  i am happy having mac and cheese by itself or paired with a salad + some cornbread with honey butter. now, if i am cooking for guests, i normally pair this with both fried chicken and a baked bbq sriracha glazed chicken, something green (i lean towards steamed broccoli with garlic and lemon or a caesar salad with bacon and avocado) and the aforementioned cornbread.

while this is called mac and cheese, i actually use medium sized shells because i noticed they cup all of the cheesy goodness in a way the small elbow macaroni i grew up on could not.

*warning – i do not measure when i season – it is more of a feeling but i am happy to do this via instagram live if that is something you all are interested in at a later date

now, onto the ingredients/necessary cookware:

one box of medium sized shells (do not buy whole wheat – the brand does not matter)
one stick of butter (plus an extra sliver)
one can of campbell’s cream of mushroom (be sure it is not low sodium or low fat)
2% milk
2 cups of grated pepper jack cheese
3-4 cups of colby jack cheese
garlic salt, black pepper and seasoning salt
a rectangular pan that is well coated with pam or your cooking spray of choice
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the recipe is fairly simple:

when you put the water on to boil your pasta, turn the oven on to 350
pour pasta in to pot once boiling with a sliver of butter and a couple dashes of garlic salt
cook until finished (more on the firm side since it will be smothered with ingredients and baked)
take coated pan and pour drained pasta into pan
add can of cream of mushroom (save can)
slice stick of butter and evenly distribute within the pan
pour milk into can until full
add to pan
add pepper jack cheese to pan
stir until mixed
season with garlic salt, seasoning salt and black pepper
stir again
add light layer of black pepper
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cover entire top with the colby jack
bake for 35-45 minutes depending on the oven (for my oven, i do 38 minutes)
let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving
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one of my favorite things about this dish (aside from how delicious it is) is that it does not turn my kitchen into a disaster, it reheats so well (especially because there are no breadcrumbs) and takes about one hour from start to finish.  there is something about mac and cheese that is good for the soul.
if you decide to make it, let me know how it goes!
xoxo,
k. tap

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