No matter how fancy you try to make mac and cheese, the best is always the simple and original version. This tried and true Southern classic recipe is the best mac and cheese I have ever had. A dear coworker shared her family’s recipe with me many years ago. I’m not sure if it was her grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s recipe, but she brought it with her from South Carolina when she married and moved to Florida.
The recipe is actually very simple and made with regular elbow macaroni pasta and American cheeses. Instead of making a roux with flour and butter, the recipe calls for a milk and egg base. As it cooks with the cheeses and pasta over low heat, it becomes a glorious and incredibly rich and silky sauce. Nothing fancy or complicated, just simple ingredients transformed into a creamy and delicious Southern classic. This is comfort food at its best! I give you Ms. Liddia’s famous Southern mac and cheese.
ABOUT MISS LIDDIA AND HER FAMOUS MAC AND CHEESE
At every office potluck she would bring her famous mac and cheese. Everyone looked forward to it as if it were the main course and she wasn’t allowed to make anything else. She would laugh whenever we would tell her she was automatically signed up for mac and cheese. She had such a great smile and she was such a great sport. Year after year she would bring in her dish, covered in foil and wrapped in a beach towel to retain the heat. We ate it up, never any leftovers regardless of how many in attendance. She has since passed, but whenever I make it, I think of her and it makes me smile. She was a wonderful person and great cook. I wish we would have given her the opportunity to make something else.
HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT
Place oven rack in the center position and pre-heat oven to 350°F. Butter an oven safe 9X13 casserole dish and set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure it’s enough water to cover the pasta, generously salt the water and add a little oil so the pasta doesn’t stick. Add pasta, stir and cook for about 5-6 minutes until al dente, almost tender since you’ll finish it off in the oven.
While the pasta is cooking, whisk together two large eggs, 3 cups of whole milk, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. Return the pasta to the pot and lower the heat to the lowest setting. Add 3 Tablespoons of butter and both packaged shredded cheeses. Stir to combine well. Slowly add the milk and egg mixture to the pasta. Add almost all of the cubed cheese, reserving some for topping, and mix to combine. Stir until well combined and sauce begins to come together. Pour into the prepared buttered 9X13 baking casserole.
Top with extra shredded cheese, reserved cheese cubes and evenly sprinkle a little paprika over the dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and reposition oven rack to top position. Broil the top for a few minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on it because the broiler can quickly burn a dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
The Best Southern Mac and Cheese
A true classic South Carolina family recipe. Cheese sauce is incredibly rich and silky. This is the best mac and cheese you'll ever eat.
- 1 lb. box elbow macaroni pasta, or your favorite pasta
- 1 good 3-finger pinch of kosher salt, for pasta water
- 2 teaspoons oil, for pasta water
- 1 8-ounce package of shredded four cheese blend
- 1 8-ounce package of sharp shredded cheese
- 1 8-ounce block of mild yellow cheese, diced small such as Colby Jack cheese
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups whole milk or light cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- paprika – optional for topping
Place oven rack in the center position and pre-heat oven to 350°F. Butter an oven safe 9X13 casserole dish and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a good 3-finger pinch of salt and a little oil, about 2 teaspoons. Make sure it's enough water to cover 1 pound of pasta.
Add pasta, stir and boil 5-6 minutes until al dente, almost tender.
While the pasta is cooking, whisk together two large eggs, 3 cups whole milk or light cream, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
Drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. Return the pasta to the pot and adjust the heat to low. Add 3 Tablespoons of butter and both packages of shredded cheese, reserving about 4 ounces of shredded cheese for topping. Stir to combine well. The cheese will begin to melt with the heat from the pasta.
Slowly add the milk and egg mixture to the pasta and stir to combine. Add ¾ of the cubed mild cheese, reserving ¼ for the topping. Stir until well combined and a sauce comes together. Pour into the prepared buttered 9X13 baking casserole.
Top with extra shredded cheese, reserved mild cheese cubes and evenly sprinkle a little paprika over the dish. Paprika is optional.
Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and reposition oven rack to top position. Return casserole to the oven and broil the top for a few minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Keep an eye on it because the broiler can quickly burn a dish.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving.