Southwestern Mac

Music Pairing: Nina Simone, Feeling Good


It is time to delve into another version/varietal of a food group: mac and cheese with a south-of-the-border twist.  If you tried out traditional recipe and are craving something a bit unique, you have come to the right place.  The roux and the base are similar, but the flavor stands out all on its own.  This version was inspired by a night at The Blues Alley, a legendary jazz venue in DC.  We spent the evening listening to Brazilian jazz by Airto Moreira and soaking up all the stories and sounds.  The evening was made unforgettable by an encore performance by his daughter Diana, who offered a version of “Feeling Good”.  It was the night before the inauguration of then President Obama and the sound, the taste and the spirit of hope were in the air, connecting what felt like all of humanity.  While the song was actually written by English composers Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, our only beloved version up until that night was Nina Simone’s, of course (that is the one we are sharing).  And while the music and the magic of the Blues Alley were spectacular, the food options did not naturally align with our preferences…until we found a version of mac and cheese that inspired a little recipe, shared below.  So, transport yourself to 2008, put on the soundtrack and enjoy the spunkier version of the mac!


  • 2 C Elbow Macaroni
  • 8 C cold water
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 C milk
  • ¼ C flour
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Adobo seasoning
  • 1 T pepper
  • 4 oz shredded cheese
  • 4 oz pimento cheese
  • 1 t chipotle seasoning
  • 1t  Aleppo seasoning (or cayenne, if not available)
  • ½ C bread crumbs
  • 1 T smoked paprika


  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil
  2. Add 1 t salt, followed by the macaroni. Boil until soft (usually about 15 mins).  Drain quickly in a colander and set aside.
  3. In a separate smaller pot, prepare the roux. Start by gently melting the butter
  4. Once the butter is softened, add the milk. Stir together gently.
  5. Add the flour and all of the spices, minus the paprika (save that for the topping). Stir/mix thoroughly and keep the heat low-medium.
  6. Start gradually adding the cheese and stirring together until the roux becomes a wholesome connected mixture.
  7. Cook the roux for about 10 mins, and be prepared for this last step while it is still hot (keep the last minute or two on low heat
  8. Combine the macaroni and the roux thoroughly in either a large bowl or the initial drained pot. The mixture should be somewhat saucy but not too soupy.  Place onto a baking dish
  9. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, the paprika and a little more cheese
  10. Bake at 400 degrees, uncovered, for about 15 minutes
  11. Serve with joy and good stories!

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