Nostalgia comes in different forms- photos, home movies, scents. For me, it comes in the form of food. I can honestly say that every single family gathering we have revolves around food, and certain people are known for certain things. My grandmother owns the chicken soup category (obviously), my uncle and stepdad are the grill-masters, and my mom has her mac & cheese and potato salad. I sort of cover the in-between categories.

First, let me reiterate my incredible love of cheese, as it is intense, although that’s not my sole reason for loving this dish. It’s about comfort and love- how cheesy, I know. (See what I did there?) Maybe it’s how she always adds a little extra cheese just for me, or that I don’t even have to ask for it when I come home; she just knows. It’s not that mom makes it with some secret recipe or exotic ingredients, it’s honestly pretty straightforward- just rotini pasta and cheese sauce made from scratch.

The sauce is my favorite part. She starts with Velveeta- I know, I know, Velveeta is “poor man’s cheese”, but it’s that bouncy orange brick that makes this mac & cheese so delicious. Then come the other cheeses, always colby jack, sometimes cheddar, and usually a white cheese like parmesan or mozzarella. I’m generally asked for my opinion on this, but again being the cheese enthusiast I am, I approve of any added cheeses.

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Plus, it’s still my job to stir the cheese into the pasta.

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Okay, maybe eating it is my favorite part. I like to be right there when it comes out of the oven so I can breathe in all that deliciousness. Mmm, the way the pasta soaks up all the sauce so every bit is full of creamy cheese. And then there’s the slight salty, crunchy, crispy layer on top, gently sprinkled with breadcrumbs. Sorry…I’m getting distracted.

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I’ve had expensive mac & cheese before, and yeah, that tasted amazing, but it wasn’t made by my mom so it wasn’t the best. Fancy food is all well and good, but nothing can take the place of those dishes that represent where I came from and remind me why I love to cook.