Inspired by my trip to Nashville, where I had tasty meals at both Arnold’s Country Kitchen and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, here’s a recipe for mac ’n cheese. I had this dish at both restaurants—Arnold’s makes a pretty classic one, while Hattie B’s adds pimento cheese.

Funny story: during one of my NMO attacks years ago, I was put on several days of intravenous corticosteroids, whose side effects include insomnia, water retention, and increased appetite. For days, all I craved was instant mac ’n cheese—you know, the kind that comes with a packet of neon orange powder that magically turns into gooey cheese after you add hot water. I even went to Costco and bought a bulk box of the stuff. I just couldn’t get enough. Thinking back on it now, it’s pretty disgusting. But, hey, it was what comforted me at the time.

I don’t remember the last time I made macaroni and cheese from a box. Nowadays, there are two types of mac ’n cheese I make: either the more gourmet baked macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar and panko breadcrumbs (notice how I refer to it by its propername, “macaroni and cheese”), or the one I’m sharing with you below (dubbed mac ’n cheese). This mac ’n cheese is more down-home, more comfort style. It’s the kind you’d find sitting in a hotel pan behind the sneeze guard in some cafeteria down south. It reminds me of my childhood, when my mama used to reward me with a trip to Luby’s after my Saturday morning piano lesson.

Make this mac ’n cheese, along with broccoli rice casserole and cornbread or biscuits, and you’ve got yourself some strong sides with a whole lotta soul to your southern meal.

Recipe: Southern Cafeteria-Style Mac ’n Cheese

Notes: Ol’-fashioned mac ’n cheese that you’d find in a cafeteria down south.


  1. 2 tbsp evaporated milk
  2. 2 tbsp AP flour
  3. 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  4. 3 c shredded cheddar or American cheese, divided (12 ozs)
  5. 1 (16 ozs) pkg elbow macaroni, soaked in hot water for 30m
  6. 1/4 c panko breadcrumbs, tossed with 2 tbsp melted butter (optional)


  1. Prep mac ’n cheese: In a large bowl, mix together evaporated milk, flour, and butter. Stir in 1.25 c boiling water. Stir in 1 c cheddar until smooth. Fold in macaroni, 1 c cheddar, and salt to taste.
  2. Bake mac ’n cheese: Preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer to greased 2qt baking dish, cover with foil, and bake 20m. Sprinkle remaining 1 c cheddar and panko if using over top and bake until bubbly, approx 10m more.
  3. Let rest 5m before serving.

Active time: 15m
Total time: 1h 10m
Yields: 2 qts (4 to 6 servings)

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Discussion about this post

  1. Thanks for the recipe. I love homemade food and cook it with great pleasure. I can't understand why people eat the food from the boxes when it is so easy to make delicious food by yourself.

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