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By Karin Calloway
My Mac & Cheese
I searched for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe for years. Since I live in the Deep South, I’d sampled every version imaginable at covered dish suppers and roadside "meat and three" establishments. ("Meat and threes" are what we Southerners call a restaurant that offers a choice of entrée with three side dishes.)
I’ve tried recipes that call for eggs, cottage cheese, cream cheese and sour cream. My version contains none of these. The secret to "My Mac and Cheese" is a retro ingredient: Velveeta processed cheese.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. A real "foodie" couldn’t possibly insist on using Velveeta. But, think back to when you were a child and your mother had a special Velveeta plastic container and a special cheese slicer she used to cut through this extremely soft "cheese food." You have to admit that those gooey grilled cheese sandwiches she made with Velveeta and Wonder Bread were too good to forget.
Velveeta isn’t the only trick to My Mac & Cheese. I like to use "ready-cut" macaroni instead of the traditional. I toss the cooked macaroni with a thin white sauce (which must be seasoned well with salt and pepper), then layer it in a casserole dish with shredded sharp cheddar and slices of the Velveeta. The casserole is covered and baked. The dish then gets a gentle stir before serving to distribute the cheese.
This comfort food is heaven on a plate, but it isn’t for times when you’re counting fat grams. When you’re throwing caution to the wind, take My Mac and Cheese along to your next potluck, or serve it as an entrée or side dish.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium to medium-low for 10 minutes, until thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper. (Taste white sauce for seasonings. It should be well seasoned.)
Add white sauce to pasta and toss, coating well. Pour half of the pasta into a 3-quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of the shredded cheddar cheese and layer with half of the Velveeta. Repeat layers, cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes, then toss to distribute cheese.
Makes 6 main dish and 8 to 10 side dish servings.