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Around here, it’s not uncommon to see Macaroni and Cheese listed as a vegetable.

I’m good with that.

A side is something optional. Something to pad the plate and back-up the main course. But vegetables are required. Calling macaroni and cheese a vegetable means that we believe it provides something necessary, a nourishment beyond mere vitamins and minerals.

Creamy, buttery, cheese-laden comfort.

For years, we’ve seen recipes tarting up the classic with 14 different cheeses, accessories like bacon and truffle oil, presentations in martini glasses, etc., but no variation on the theme is as satisfying as an old-school macaroni and cheese.

You can’t get more old-school than this recipe from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s classic cookbook, “The Gift of Southern Cooking.” It starts with elbow macaroni and extra-sharp cheddar cheese – simple enough – but what separates it from the rest is the custard. A spectacularly savory mixture including grated onion, sour cream, half-and-half, heavy cream, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, eggs and cayenne that you stir into the macaroni and cubed cheese.

If you make the recipe as written, you’ll have an intensely rich and creamy macaroni and cheese. Very intense. Almost like a pudding. If you’d like to dial it back, double the amount of macaroni and follow the rest of the recipe as directed. I did that by accident once, and it turned out beautifully. I didn’t realize the mistake until much, much later, when I was too full of cheesy contentment to care.

Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s “The Gift of Southern Cooking”

Serves 10

  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • Salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) extra-sharp cheddar cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup grated onion, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 2/3 cups (6 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish.
  2. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain, and transfer to the baking dish.
  3. Mix in the cubed cheddar cheese.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Add the sour cream, followed by the eggs, and whisk to blend.
  5. Stir in the onion, half-and-half, cream and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. Pour this custard over the macaroni and cubed cheese, and stir to blend.
  7. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the surface of the custard.
  8. Bake until the custard is set around the edges of the dish but still a bit loose in the center, about 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes.