This is a remake of my mama’s recipe. The southern way, the traditional way, the way my mama made hers is with sour cream, and then she would cut blocks of cheese into it and add lotsa pepper plus paprika for color.
One reason this recipe here is so sopped up is it’s layered with a rich egg custard and lots and lots of cheese. It’s the cheese that has the !ava, hunny! And it doesn’t matter what cheese you use. Grate up what’s in the fridge and mix ’em together for a pasta party! Cheddar, sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Swiss, Parmesan . . . they all like to play together!
While I make my mac in a big, deep cast-iron skillet, you can use a big casserole dish or a couple smaller ones to bake yours. Just know that your cookin’ time will be different and depend on how deep you’ve got yours layered.
Makes 8 Servings
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon salted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons chicken-flavored bouillon
1 pound elbow pasta
3⁄4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 good handfuls (about 8 cups) grated cheddar and/or sharp cheddar, or whatever you like best
2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons Juke Joint Seasoning* or House Seasoning Blend (For seasoning: Mix 1 tsp. each cayenne, garlic powder, pepper, kosher salt, onion power and paprika)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Grease a very deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet, or 9 × 13-inch casserole dish, with 1 tablespoon of the butter.
2. Combine 4 quarts (16 cups) of water and the bouillon in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and return to a boil, stir, and cook until just al dente—that’s not quite tender, y’all, but still just a little bit firm—6 to 7 minutes.
3. Drain the pasta well in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Tuck the remaining stick of butter down real good into the pasta to get it all melted and sopped up. Add the sour cream, salt, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the paprika, and the pepper and stir it in real good. Then add in 3 handfuls (about 3 cups) of the cheese.
4. To make the custard, in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and cream.
5. Put about one-third of the pasta into the prepared skillet or casserole dish and top with a good handful of cheese and about 2 teaspoons of the seasoning over the top to cover.
6. Pour one-third of the custard mixture over the pasta in the skillet.
7. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, adding another two layers of pasta, then cheese and seasoning, and custard, finishing with a final handful of cheese on top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika for that good color.
8. Place the skillet or casserole dish on the middle rack of the oven, with a large baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any drips. Bake until hot and bubbly, and the custard is cooked all the way through, about 40 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Reprinted with Permission from Danni’s Juke Joint Comfort Food ©Danni Rose, courtesy Harvest; Photography copyright © 2023 by John Hanney.
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