#FoodisArt at Sonesta, and our chefs find inspiration everywhere. From the locations we live and work in, to seasonal ingredients, there are so many things that impact the food they make, and family memories may impact them most of all.

Read our holiday recipe series from the 2020 holiday season.

Sonesta Nashville Airport’s Chef Matt is letting us in on a family secret this holiday season; below he shares the story behind his mom’s famous baked macaroni and cheese with bacon, along with the recipe. We hope you enjoy it!

Growing up in our family everyone lived within a car ride and we were known for gatherings, reunions, celebrations and holidays. Most of the time it was a made-up excuse for good times with good people and they always seemed to be centered around food (probably why I became a chef). Family would come to our house and bring the dishes that they were known for, or we would all pile up in the back of moms car and mom would bring that special, secret dish that some family member had handed down.

One true family holiday was Thanksgiving; everyone would drive to my grandmother’s house. We lived an hour and forty five minutes away and the seven of us would all pile in mom’s car, and on the front seat was her macaroni and cheese, the dish that everyone ate. All families have picky eaters or lived in regions where they ate a little differently, but this macaroni and cheese was the holy grail, word in the family was mom was the only one to have our great great grandmother Geraldine’s recipe. I heard growing up that my Aunt Lou Ray resented mom because she wouldn’t share the recipe. I remember the ladies all gathering in the kitchen cooking or reheating, the finest china was out and of course the crystal punch bowl, the ladies had their Thanksgiving punch. I remember seeing Aunt Norma adding honey, cloves, cinnamon, apple cider, cranberry juice, ginger beer and of course spiced rum. All the ladies would herd the kids out of the kitchen and as the morning went on the louder the kitchen would get.

We would go outside and enjoy a game of touch football, the dads standing around drinking beer and watching, some stepping in and playing quarterback, but we all looked forward toward 2:00. Aunt Teresa would come out on the porch and yell for us to come in and get cleaned up, we would run in and immediately head for the buffet while Aunt Cheri and our Grandmother Pearl would turn us around to wash up. Now was the time as we would hurry to get in line to serve ourselves. I was determined to get my hot serving of Mom’s (Geraldine’s) macaroni and cheese. . . everyone was! Mom would smile ear to ear at the end of the day as she would be bringing her empty dish home.

Chef Matt’s Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 pound Applewood smoked bacon
¼ cup of flour
1 cup whole milk (room temperature)
1 can evaporated milk (room temperature)
1 cup yellow American cheese roughly chopped
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese (freshly shredded)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat water in a large pot until boiling, cook elbow pasta for approx. 7 minutes until tender.
Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup of the liquid.
Cool pasta under cold water and set aside
Dice bacon into 1/4” pieces and separate, cook bacon on medium heat in a pot until crispy
Remove cooked bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
On medium heat add flour to bacon fat in the pot and whisk until smooth, allow to cook until a nice blonde color.
Slowly pour both milks into the bacon fat and flour mixture while constantly whisking to prevent clumping.
Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to low heat.
Slowly add both cheeses to the mixture(reserve 1 cup of cheddar) while whisking constantly to cream a smooth texture.
Pour the cooked pasta and bacon into the cheese sauce and stir until fully coated.
If the mixture is to thick or dry slowly add in some of the reserved pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.
Pour mixture into a greased baking pan and top with remaining cheddar cheese
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is browned.

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