There’s a reason Elton John is a longtime fan.
Iconic vocalist Patti LaBelle — otherwise known as the Godmother of Soul — has been singing her way into our hearts since the 1960s. Despite being fairly busy recording records and touring the world (either in girl groups or as a solo artist), LaBelle still somehow found time to hone her culinary skills. She’s such a prolific home chef, in fact, that she wrote the New York Times bestselling cookbook, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About. According to the book, LaBelle comes from a family of Southern cooks who passed down these recipes as precious family heirlooms — so you can trust her smothered chicken, peach cobbler, and fried corn will be well worth the time and effort.
When LaBelle first promoted the book about 20 years ago, she quickly took to The Oprah Winfrey Show — after all, back in the late 90s, being featured on Oprah’s hit daytime show was a solid sign that you were a tastemaker. You can watch their fun, hilarious, heart-warming cooking segment on Youtube; once you get past the fuzziness of the footage, you’ll be blown away by LaBelle and Oprah’s chemistry as they whip up this “Over the Rainbow” mac and cheese. Plus, the clip includes LaBelle telling a cute story about cooking this dish for a pre-fame Elton John when they performed together in London: After a brutal card game, LaBelle won all of Elton John’s money and felt remorseful enough to cook for him. She dished up this mac and cheese, which features four types of cheese (not counting the Velveeta) and a lot of butter.
Apparently, Elton loved the casserole, and we can see why. It features mild cheeses that ensure optimal creaminess alongside some sharper cheeses to add an edge. It’s also covered with a layer of shredded cheese that crisps up in the oven so that you have a variety of textures in the dish. In her Oprah segment, LaBelle also clarifies that you can cut down on the butter if you don’t feel like indulging in the high-fat content, but she points out that the dish is decadent because it’s comfort food that’s best enjoyed only once or twice a year. Still, regardless of whether or not you play around with ingredients or substitutions, we’re sure this recipe will be a smash hit for your next special occasion.
Patti LaBelle’s Over-the-Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (8 ounces) Velveeta, cut into small cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole.
Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot.
In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter.
Bake until it’s bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.