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Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese — a bubbling baked macaroni casserole made with a blend of sharp cheeses, salty butter, and luscious cream.
This Southern Soul Food Baked Macaroni and Cheese is a much-requested family favorite, especially during the holidays. My blend of cheeses ranges from mild to sharp to a little bit of nuttiness. It’s rich from the butter and cream and made flavorful by a few simple spices.
Custard style macaroni and cheese
Everybody has their way of making mac and cheese and that’s alright. Many southern mac and cheese recipes are saucier being made with a flour roux and processed cheeses. I prefer a firmer cheesy custard to bind my macaroni noodles. My recipe is made with a ridiculously rich and creamy sauce thickened with eggs and made extra creamy by cream cheese. The cheese sauce bakes up and cradles the noodles like a big hug. Some people refer to this kind of baked mac as macaroni and cheese pie.
What type of cheese goes into baked mac and cheese?
I don’t really think it matters what type of cheese you use, so long as you understand the properties of the cheese you use. You want cheese that are creamy a little pungent and/or sharp. I use a combination of cream cheese, mild and sharp cheddar, Swiss cheese, and a little gruyere. Cream cheese adds the creamy texture to the base. You could also use sour cream if you don’t prefer cream cheese. Many people use Velveeta to achieve creaminess but cream cheese works just as well.
For that pungent flavorful bite, sharp cheddar, gruyere, and Swiss is it for me. Other sharp cheese to try include:
Ingredients and equipment needed to make southern macaroni and cheese
Elbow macaroni noodles
Half and half– Half and half is made from equal parts heavy cream and whole milk. Evaporated milk is a really good substitute if you don’t have half and half.
Cream cheese– Cream cheese adds creaminess to the dish. You can switch it out for a cup of sour cream if you prefer.
9×13 baking dish
How to make baked mac and cheese
First, I boil my elbow noodles according to al dente then toss them with half of the spice mix, the cheddar cheeses, and the butter. Then I make the cheese sauce by whipping the softened cream cheese and the eggs before adding it to a saucepan with the half and half, remaining cheeses, spices, and butter.
The sauce is immediately poured over the noodles and mixed in well. Then bake uncovered for 30 minutes or so. The sauce will be absorbed by the noodles and the top will be a golden brown. I let mine sit for 10 minutes to set before serving.
Tips for making baked macaroni and cheese in ahead of time
- Under cook the noodles. Pasta absorbs liquid fairly quickly. Undercooked pasta will be more resistant and less mushy from sitting in the sauce. Cook to al dente and rinse the noodles under cold water to cool them off.
- Let the cheese sauce cool. The sauce needs to cool down so that it doesn’t continue to cook the pasta.
- Cover and store in the fridge unbaked.
- Bring to room temp before baking or add more cooking time if using it straight from the fridge.
How to store and reheat leftover baked macaroni and cheese
My disclaimer—leftover mac and cheese is best stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. After that, my personal opinion is that it loses its appeal (I’m not a big fan of leftovers). Fortunately, this rarely happens. When I make this recipe for holidays, it’s literally gone within a day or two. But there are occasions when I’ve made it and had to freeze a portion of it. The results were pretty good but do note my previous disclaimer.
- To freeze baked mac and cheese: Wrap 2-4 serving of mac in heavy duty aluminum foil. Try to fold the foil as square as possible. Then store the mac in a good freezer safe bag. This will keep for 30 days at least.
- To reheat baked mac and cheese from the fridge: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place up to 4 serving of mac in heavy duty aluminum foil. Heat the pasta for 12-14 minutes until heated through.
- To reheat frozen baked mac and cheese: Allow the mac to thaw at room temp in the aluminum foil. Heat the oven to 275 and warm for 12-14 minutes or more as needed.
Recipes to serve with southern soul food baked macaroni and cheese
Baked macaroni and cheese begs for a menu fitting of its greatness. I love to serve mine with Buttermilk Fried Chicken or Southern Fried Pork Chops, Spicy Collard Greens, and Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cornbread.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THE RECIPE. SUGGESTIONS AND HONEST OPINIONS ALWAYS APPRECIATED. LEAVE A REVIEW IN THE COMMENTS, RATE THE RECIPE, AND SAVE IT FOR LATER!
*This recipe was updated on 10/1/2020 for improved content. I was first published on 5/19/2018.*
Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 16 oz elbow noodles
- 4 c half and half
- 1 c butter 2 sticks
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 8 oz mild cheddar cubed
- 8 oz sharp cheddar shredded
- 8 oz swiss cheese shredded
- 4 oz gruyere cheese
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend together the salt, pepper, sugar, and mustard powder. Next, boil elbow macaroni noodles to al dente, drain and pour into the baking dish. Toss the noodle with half of the spice mix, mild and sharp cheddar, and butter.
- Whip softened cream cheese in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add eggs and mix until pale yellow and smooth.
- In a cold saucepan or pot, pour the cream cheese egg mixture followed by the half and half. Stirring constantly, turn the flame to low heat then add the Swiss and gruyere cheese, remaining spice mix, and butter. Allow cheeses to melt slowly stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and resembles a thin custard. You will notice that the cheese will become soft and stringy. Remove the pot from the heat source.
- Immediately pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and cheese. Stir to mix well. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes. The sauce will be absorbed by the noodles and the top will be a golden brown. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.