The Ultimate, Go-To Mac & Cheese Casserole Recipe

When it comes to mac-n-cheese, I confess I don’t make it with milk and flour. My go-to macaroni and cheese recipe is based on an old Southern Living recipe that uses cream of celery soup, but I often mix it up to make it my own. I also switch it up based on what I may have on hand. For instance, I have used plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Still, the original recipe is delicious. It pairs well with any meat dish, such as steaks, pork loin or pork chops, or sausage. I’ve also served it with venison steaks. It’s great as a side for a cookout and is also a nice match for BBQ. Start with this and consider your own variations.

“Jack in the Macaroni Bake”

Southern Living, February 1994

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. of elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons or margarine
  • 1/4 cub chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • chili powder

Original Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook macaroni according to directions, drain, rinse and set aside. On stovetop, melt butter in Dutch over, add diced onion and pepper. Saute over medium heat until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, sour cream and soup. Fold in cooked macaroni. Spoon into a greased 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle with chili powder. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

My basic version means substituting with the following:

  • 1 tablespoon butter paired with 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • add a diced jalapeno (small) with the diced red bell pepper
  • you can switch out the cream of celery with cream of mushroom
  • you can use plain yogurt instead of sour cream
  • I prefer paprika and Cajun seasoning to chili powder, and I like to sprinkle them in a criss-cross fashion for a spice latticework across the top of the casserole

This mac & cheese is classic comfort food. It keeps well in the fridge, but won’t likely last past a second night. I really love it with sweet onion and jalapeno. As for variations, try not to exceed the measurements for the onion and pepper because the base — soup, cheese and sour cream — needs to hold together and any excess with the other ingredients could interfer with that binding with the pasta. I did manage to fold in a little bit of chopped, sauteed kale.

The classic Jake in the Macaroni bake with a bit of kale interlaced with the pasta.
The classic Jake in the Macaroni bake with a bit of kale interlaced with the pasta.

You can make with other short pastas, such as penne, but I am finding that elbow macaroni might just work the best.

This is a stable of my cooking repertoire and a really great centerpiece for entertaining. It’s great for serving to family or anyone you want to feel like family in your home.

Enjoy! Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

These notes were taken from an old copy at my grandmother's home back in the '90s
My notes transcribed from a Southern Living magazine at my grandmother’s home.

Grill away the Chill – Yes, Grill in Wintertime

Preparing to stay in on a cold winter night, you may opt to make a vat of soup and bake bread. Or, you could grill veggies. That’s right, I said grill. In wintertime. A raclette grill fits that bill perfectly.

Veggies on a raclette grill... indoors
Veggies on a raclette grill… indoors

It’s electric and sits on your table or countertop while it works its magic on vegetables, meats or fish. There is no smoke, no fire, no standing outside in inclement weather. You and yours can sit around the grill enjoying toasty food, together, indoors. I once saw my brother-in-law head out to a snowy deck during a New England blizzard to grill meat. Let’s just say that is commendable, but totally unnecessary.

The convenience with the raclette grill means I can place ingredients on the non-stick grill top (or granite top) and walk away. I’m a multi-tasker and may be doing laundry, working up a spreadsheet or playing with my dog while cooking. I have yet to experience burned food on the raclette. The closest I came to burning something was some liquefied cheese in a raclette pan (little cooking dishes for cheese or small pieces of food, such as shrimp).

Our first raclette grill experience combined veggies, cheese and sausage. I browned the sausages all the way around, then split them to cook in lengthwise halves. I’ve also cooked hamburgers, chicken fajitas, chicken cutlets, pork cutlets and fish on the raclette grill. The joy of this is akin to that of making a one-pot dish. There is only one think to clean and this cooking surface just wipes down in the sink.

If you must bake a casserole to combat the chill, consider the ease of using a cheese dip. I took leftover rice, added the cheese dip, a can of celery soup, a can of diced chiles and freshly diced tomatoes. After a half-hour at 375 degrees, we had a perfect cheesy rice casserole.IMG_6185IMG_6187

If you find yourself cooped up this winter, dreaming of a mixed grill meal with fresh veggies, oozy cheese and delicious meats, then why not adopt the raclette lifestyle?