Homemade Macaroni and Three Cheeses is a side dish that contains a surprise ingredient that makes it creamy, cheesy and delicious.
EDITOR’S NOTE (September 6, 2021): Replaced two photos with updated versions. Bake this side dish in a cast iron skillet or casserole dish.
DISCLAIMER (NOT SPONSORED)
I gladly accepted a complimentary cast iron skillet from Lodge Manufacturing and used it to make this recipe. Please not I have not been paid to endorse any product pictured on this page.
Prepare macaroni according to instructions printed on package.
Cook until al dente (firm). Mushy noodles will not work in this recipe.
After cooking the noodles, drain and pour into a buttered casserole dish.
The surprise ingredient is buttermilk (read back story below). I also add a tablespoon of sour cream. This combo takes the taste to another level.
You must try at least once (repeat). 🙂
I love coarse ground black pepper. Some people don’t like the black specs. White pepper is an excellent alternative.
After placing macaroni noodles and milk mixture in buttered casserole dish, layer sliced (or shredded) cheese over the top.
Place in HOT oven for about 8 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Remove from oven and stir until evenly combined.
Sprinkle shredded (or thinly sliced) cheeses over top.
Return to oven and bake until bubbly.
BLACK RIND HOOP CHEESE The black rind is sharp cheddar cheese. The red rind is mild. ‘Hoop’ cheese is a firm, dry cheese made directly from milk, with no cream or salt. It’s real cheese with a hearty flavor. I like the Royal Foods brand.
‘Hoop’ is the shaping molds used in making cheese. Made in wedges or large twenty-pound wheels.
Packaged shredded cheese has a special coating to prevent caking… which isn’t tasty in my opinion.
I prefer to purchase blocks of cheese. No problem to shred and/or slice. The taste is worth the extra effort in my opinion.
BACK STORY: HOW I DISCOVERED THE SURPRISE INGREDIENT
Several years ago (2006 or 2007), I had a pleasant conversation with a church member while we were in our separate cars parked in the parking lot. We were waiting for traffic to subside after a powerful service.
Our windows were rolled down while we talked to each other. It was during the summer and the weather was pleasant (not too hot).
At the time, our mega church had over 18,000 members. I had never met this sister.
She provided a delicious nugget of info that would forever change how I make macaroni and cheese.
We talked about Sunday dinner. She asked if I ever used buttermilk to make macaroni and cheese. I said no.
The friendly sister was right when she told me that after I try buttermilk, I’ll never use whole milk again.
I’ve never seen her before or after that day. An angel? I like to think so!
After she told me to try buttermilk, suddenly the traffic lightened up. We said our goodbyes before driving away.
I feel like she was an angel sent from heaven to help me make the BEST Homemade Macaroni and Three Cheeses I’ve ever tasted!
I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do.
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Homemade Macaroni and Three Cheeses
- 1 box (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter not margarine
- 1-3/4 cups buttermilk whole or fat-free
- 1 medium egg, beaten (optional) The beaten egg will help thicken cheese sauce.
- 1 tablespoon sour cream (optional)
- salt as preferred
- coarse ground black pepper as preferred or use white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika, optional smoked or regular
- 1-1/2 cups (or 8 ounce block) medium cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded or use shredded black rind hoop cheese
- 1-1/2 cups (or 8 ounce block) Marbled Colby & Monterey Jack Cheese, sliced or shredded
- French fried onions (optional) for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Evenly coat a casserole baking dish or 10" cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
- Prepare elbow macaroni according to instructions on package. Cook until al dente (firm). Mushy macaroni noodles not suggested for this recipe. Drain cooked noodles and place in buttered casserole dish or 10" cast iron skillet. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, beaten egg (if using), sour cream, salt (as preferred), coarse ground black pepper (as preferred), garlic powder, onion powder, paprika (if using). Stir until evenly combined.
- Pour mixture in center of baking dish. Stir until evenly combined.
- Top with 1/2 of each block of cheese (shredded or thinly sliced). Cover with foil.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375. Bake 8 to 10 minutes OR until cheese is melted.
- Remove from oven. Stir together melted cheese and noodles. Top with remaining 1/2 blocks of cheese (shredded or thinly sliced).
- Sprinkled crushed French fried onions over the top of each serving (optional).
- Return to HOT oven. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes OR until cheese is bubbly.
- If desired, place under boiler to brown (optional).
- Serve hot.