Confessions of a Velveeta Cheese Connoisseur

Today is President’s Day.  It’s also National Drink Wine Day.  Oh, and it’s Battery Appreciation Day (couldn’t make that up if I tried).  When was the last time all those stars aligned?  We’ve got a lot of celebrating to do . . .

We live in Virginia, so I’m making one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites for dinner on this President’s Day Night:  Macaroni and Cheese with Peas.  And since Thomas Jefferson was America’s original oenophile, naturally we’re going to drink wine on Drink Wine Day.  It would be wrong not to.  I’m pairing the Macaroni and Cheese with a Chardonnay from one of my favorite Virginia wineries, King Family Vineyards.

Sure, I could use a fancy recipe for macaroni and cheese (made with a pile of expensive artisnal cheeses and a gallon of heavy cream), but sometimes you need a big bowl of comfort.  So I’m making a Macaroni and Cheese recipe from my childhood.  And the secret ingredient is . . . Velveeta.

I know what you’re thinking (I can see your side-eye).  Velveeta?  Velveeta is uncouth.  Velveeta isn’t even cheese — it’s a cheese travesty.  It’s a cheese-flavored chemical loaf.  All true.

And while Velveeta is never going to win a role on an artisnal cheese platter, it (like Two-Buck Chuck) has a purpose in life . . . Macaroni and Cheese.

This recipe originally came from my Aunt Barbara.  I have no idea where she got it — probably from the Nebraska Farmwives Collection.  Whenever I’m asked for this recipe, I always cringe . . .”oh, crap, now I have to tell you about the Velveeta”.   But, if you’ve spent any part of your childhood in the Midwest (Go Big Red!), Velveeta has imprinted on you.  This isn’t a fancy recipe.  It doesn’t have a pedigree. It’s just good food, from good people.

2 cups dry elbow-macaroni noodles  (you’ll ruin it if you use fancier noodles)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1-1/2 cups Velveeta cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni until al dente.  While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Whisk in flour until a smooth paste forms.  Whisk in milk a little at a time.  Once the mixture is hot and starts to thicken, stir in Velveeta cheese until melted.  Pour over cooked macaroni, stir and enjoy!  The original recipe calls for the mac and cheese to bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.  But I can’t remember the last time I went to that much trouble . . . it’s perfect right off the stovetop.  Sometimes I don’t even bother with a plate.


And now for the wine and pairing . . .

Wine Notes:  One of my favorite Virginia Chardonnays.  Caramel apples and butter on the nose.  Medium body and acidity.  Flavors are apple and pear and maybe a little hay (not that I have experience eating hay).  Little bits of mineral in there, too. Just the right amount of oak.  About $22 per bottle.

Pairing Notes:  Contrary to the picture, I eat my peas and macaroni all mixed together.  But I photographed it with a line of demarcation, for those of you with food-touching issues.  The wine definitely cranks up the perception of acidity in the wine, but that’s not a bad thing for me, with the creamy sauce.  And now the flavors of vanilla and pear just explode.  I tried a bite of just peas with the wine . . . that’s a no.  So I’m going back to mixing!


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