Southern Sides: What’s Your Favorite? How About Mac and Cheese! 4th Annual Southern Sides Competition, BBQ Festival on the Neuse!

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Eastern North Carolina “Pig Picking” BBQ is always delicious but no respectable pig picking is complete without a delicious variety of sides. Alongside the hushpuppies, coleslaw, and baked beans you will often find a creamy Macaroni and Cheese! This year at the BBQ Festival on the Neuse, the 4th Annual Southern Sides Competition will feature “Macaroni and Cheese.” So whip up a batch of your favorite mac and cheese recipe and let’s see how it shakes out in competition against your neighbor’s favorite recipe!! Check out the rules for the Southern Sides Competition at

Mac and Cheese isn’t always the healthiest choice, but check out the calories in the Veggie Mac and Cheese, it is quite a difference, and remember, splurge in moderation. From traditional to unique, from creamy to crusty, with eggs or no eggs, here are some ideas for you to try.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

(I love this one; you do not have to precook the noodles-Yahoo!)


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low-fat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked


  1. Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
  2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
  3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Mac and Cheese The Cheesiest!

(Adapted from an original Rachel Ray recipe, great for big groups)


  • 1 pound macaroni pasta
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
  • 6 ounces shredded aged white cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • 6 ounces shredded Muenster cheese or Monterey Jack (about 1½ cups)
  • 6 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese (about 1½ cups)
  • Pepper


  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain.
    Meanwhile, in large saucepan, melt the cream, Velveeta and butter over low heat. Stir in the cheddar, Muenster and pepper jack and cook, stirring, until the cheese has melted; season with pepper. Stir in the pasta.

Creamy Light Mac and Cheese

(I demonstrated this one years ago at the Lenoir County Farmers Market and it was a big hit)


  • 3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
  • 1¼ cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I add a tad more of this, it makes it slightly creamier)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¼ cups (5 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni (or your favorite)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the centerpiece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; add Swiss, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
  6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Serves 8, each serving contains Calories 390, Fat 10.9 g, Protein 19.1 g, Carbohydrate 53.9 g, Fiber 3.2 g, Cholesterol 31 mg, Sodium 589 mg.

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese


  • 1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (10-¾ ounces) condensed cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika


  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker; add butter. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups cheese, evaporated milk, condensed soup, 2% milk and eggs. Pour over macaroni mixture; stir to combine. Cook, covered, on low 3-½ to 4 hours or until a thermometer reads at least 160°F.
  2. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cook, covered, on low 15-20 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with paprika. Yield: 10 servings.

Serves 10, each serving contains Calories 502, Fat 28 g, Protein 21 g, Carbohydrate 42 g, Fiber 2 g, Cholesterol 131 mg, Sodium 638 mg.

Everything is Better with Ranch, Macaroni and Cheese


  • 1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • ¼ cup butter, cubed
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic pepper blend
  • 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Colby cheese
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • ½ cup crushed saltines
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the milk, butter, dressing mix and seasonings; heat through. Stir in Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses until melted. Stir in sour cream.
  2. Drain macaroni; stir into cheese sauce with the saltines. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yield: 8 servings.

Serves 8, each serving contains Calories 488, Fat 23 g, Protein 18 g, Carbohydrate 52 g, Fiber 2 g, Cholesterol 66 mg, Sodium 52 mg.

Veggie Macaroni and Cheese


  • 1-½ cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 cups fresh cauliflowerets
  • 3 large carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a 6-qt. stockpot, cook macaroni according to package directions, adding broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery during the last 6 minutes of cooking. Drain; transfer to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat; sauté onion until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually stir in milk and broth; bring to a boil. Cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes; stir in cheese, mustard, salt and pepper.
  3. Add to macaroni mixture, stirring to coat; sprinkle with paprika. Bake, uncovered, until heated through, 15-20 minutes.

Serves 12, each 1 cup serving contains Calories 200, Fat 11 g, Protein 10 g, Carbohydrate 15 g, Fiber 2 g, Cholesterol 33 mg, Sodium 391 mg.