My eyes were opened and life was changed in January of 2018 when I visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for the very first time.

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There were several moments during my visit that grabbed my heart, but one of my favorite stories was about 'grandma's mac and cheese.' Most everyone knows that St. Jude Children's Research Hospital cares for very sick kids but not everyone knows all of the ways that the hospital, doctors, and staff go above and beyond for the kids.

At St. Jude, no family ever receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food because St. Jude believes that the only thing a family should worry about is helping their child live, even if the way to help a child feel better is to call their grandma in the middle of the night for her special comfort food recipe.

As I was touring the hospital, we stopped outside the cafeteria and our guide shared with us the story of a little boy who was so sick and wasn't eating. The staff had tried everything they could think of to get the boy to eat,  but he just wasn't feeling it. At their wit's end, the staff asked the boy if he could have anything in the world to eat what it would be. To their surprise, the boy requested his grandma's homemade macaroni and cheese.

Excited that there was something the boy was craving, the chef at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital picked up the phone and called grandma in the middle of the night to learn how to replicate her macaroni and cheese recipe, and to delight of everyone, the boy finally ate. This is just one small example of the great lengths St. Jude Children's Research Hospital goes to for their kids.

Would you like to help kids and their families under the care of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital? As a Partner In Hope, you’ll join a special community of monthly donors who’ve pledged to help save kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. When you become a Partner in Hope, your monthly donation makes sure that families never receive a bill from St. Jude. And the best part? It's easy to give on your terms each month.

By the way, Beth is the creative talent behind Home Stories A to Z and she also visited St. Jude Children's Research Hospital where grandma's macaroni and cheese story was also shared with her, except Beth got something that I didn't...Beth's got grandma's recipe.

I hope that if you make this, you'll think of the little boy who slowly gained back his strength from this comforting recipe and of all the other precious little ones at St. Jude fighting for their lives and that you'll call 800-372-4999 to become a Partner in Hope for St. Jude Kids.

Grandma's Homemade Mac and Cheese


3 T plain dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1 3/4 C whole milk, divided
3 T all-purpose flour
2 C grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (6 oz)
1 C fontina cheese
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 ounces (2 cups) elbow macaroni or penne


  1. Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil, and paprika in a small bowl.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in fontina cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Cook pasta until al dente, or until not quite tender. It will continue to cook during baking. Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

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