Sometimes only Grandma’s macaroni and cheese recipe will do, and that’s especially true if you’re a little kid going through treatment for a catastrophic illness. Chef Miles McMath, Director of Culinary Operations at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and his team go the extra mile on a daily basis in order to influence children lacking appetites to eat. If that means calling Grandma for her special macaroni and cheese recipe, they’ll do it. And that’s what they did for one particular boy who craved mac and cheese.

At St. Jude, food is much more than just breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Meals provide comfort when far away from home, a sense of enjoyment during a difficult time, and nourishment to keep kids strong as they fight to live.

It’s a challenging job that Chef McMath finds particularly rewarding. Because St. Jude caters to families across the globe, the culinary team is often tasked with preparing exotic dishes from overseas. They’ll source recipes and hard-to-find ingredients–whatever it takes to make families feel at home. Chef McMath also believes that if you allow kids to participate in making food, they’re more likely to eat it. He’s developed some hands-on projects that allow kids to make their own pizza (chef hats included), decorate cupcakes, and get excited about food.

To serve the most nutrient-dense food possible, Chef McMath maintains 60 raised garden beds on site, composts, and hosts a weekly Farmers Market that includes over 15 farmers and food artisans. Most ingredients making up the 2500 meals a day produced in the hospital’s Kay Kafe kitchen are tirelessly sourced from areas within a 100-mile radius.

I had the opportunity to visit St. Jude to learn more about what they do, a deeply meaningful experience that I will never forget. I was able to enjoy some of this mac and cheese for lunch, and I fully understand why it’s become one of their most requested dishes. It’s essentially a perfectly cheesy, classic mac and cheese dish with a neat story behind it. Enjoy!

Yield: 8 servings

The Best Mac and Cheese Recipe

The Best Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1?2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 cups 1% milk
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions

  1. If you'll be baking, preheat the oven to 350 F. In a large stockpot, bring salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.
  2. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the milk gradually and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, boil the macaroni in the salted water until al dente, according to package directions.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, stir the cheeses into the sauce until fully melted and remove from the heat.
  6. When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it in a colander and add it to the cheese sauce. Mix to combine.
  7. Pour it into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes (for kids who don't like "crusty" macaroni and cheese, this need not go in the oven).
  8. Allow to cool slightly and serve hot.

Notes

Recipe provide by Miles McMath CEC, CDM
Director of Culinary Operations, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN

The protocols that St. Jude has helped develop have increased childhood cancer survival rates to 80%. No family pays St. Jude for anything, ever. You can donate here to help.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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3 Comments

  1. Your food section looks delicious! 🙂
    Lovely blog, Katie! Thanks for connecting with us on Twitter! Keep up the great work and travel safe!