The taste of home

What’s the first thing you think of when I say the words, ‘home, food and comfort?’ For me, it’s a no-brainer… mac & cheese. I’m not talking about the blue box type or something pre-prepared in yellow day-glow packaging, I’m talking about the good stuff. The soul food that makes someone think of comfort, warmth and home.

This recipe takes root from my college roommate’s mom. Katie and I spent four years gallivanting around Duquesne’s campus knowing we ruled the world. We peppered our tenure with trips to Katie’s hometown in Mercersburg to break up the monotony of downtown. We often seized our freedom to visit her parents and score some real food. AKA, dishes that didn’t demand a microwave or a cafeteria that often boasted a predictable menu of mundane food.

When we piled into Katie’s trusty brown Subaru to take a weekend trip, Katie reliably read my mind with a seemingly psychic connection. She knew, with my mere muffled ‘mmmm’ mutterings, that I was already mentally savoring her mom’s creamy, savory mac & cheese dish.

Cathy (right) and her college roommate Katie (left) at Duquesne University

Katie’s mom played the perfect motherly role and she spared no time preparing to feed us the good stuff. After we shed our jackets and bags, her mom scuttled back to the kitchen to finish her final preparations of our long-anticipated dinner.

Her mom must’ve left an imprint on me considering it’s been over 20 years since she’s shared her recipe or cooked for me and several years since her passing. 20 years or 70, it won’t matter, I will think of her every time I pull the hot bubbling concoction from my oven to feed my friends or family. Over the years, I made a couple of tweaks to fit my taste, but her mom poured the foundation for this fantastic recipe.


16 ounces cavatappi

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces cream cheese

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Use cooking spray to line a large casserole dish.

In large pot, boil cavatappi per package instructions (and lean towards al dente).  While preparing the pasta, use a saucepan to prepare the sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and whisk. Then add 1 cup milk and whisk. Add the sour cream and cream cheese. Stir until melted into a sauce. Add the cayenne and shredded cheddar cheese. Continue to whisk the mixture until sauce is smooth.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to large bowl. Combine the cheese mixture to cooked pasta in bowl and stir until the pasta and sauce are completely mixed. Add mixture to casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cover with foil if you prefer the tops of the pasta to remain soft.

Hopefully you’ll give this one a chance.  If you discover a satisfied smile crawling across your face, pass it down to your family and friends so all of us can find a little bit of home in this recipe.

Katie and Cathy today, after 20 years of memories and mac & cheese

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