I usually like to make lighter versions of comfort food - lighter tuna melts, baked (not fried!) eggplant Parmesan, butternut squash macaroni and cheese, brownies full of zucchini, etc. - but sometimes you just need THE REAL DEAL. I bought all the ingredients for my favorite butternut squash mac & cheese this week, set aside a relaxed afternoon to make it, and was looking forward to one of my favorite fall meals. But then something happened, and I realized that a real deal mac & cheese was in order. I was talking to my friend about the butternut mac, and asked her if she'd like me to save some for her, when she told me, "You know, I've never had macaroni and cheese before." She's about the same age as I am - in other words, she'd gone far too many years without macaroni and cheese. I asked her if she'd prefer a crunchy-top baked macaroni or a creamy stovetop version, and she said, "Crunchy top!" So I shelved the butternut squash for the week and went and bought another block of cheese. Because as much as I love my healthy veggie-packed version, it's not THE REAL DEAL. I wanted butter, copious amounts of cheese, buttered bread crumbs, milk - all the good stuff. I usually make the Martha Stewart mac & cheese, sometimes the Barefoot Contessa version, but I hadn't tried the Alton Brown recipe in years, and I decided to give it a go. Ooooohhhhhh it's good. Really, really good. Rich, cheesy, creamy - I'll say it one more time - it's the real deal. When all is said and done I still think I prefer the Martha Stewart version over this one, but let's just say that didn't stop me from digging in. As you can see in the photos below - the photo shoot started out tame enough but devolved into me sitting cross-legged on the floor "mmmm-ing" over my mini bowl of cheesy goodness. So I set aside a few servings for The Mr. and packed up the rest to take to my friend. In other words, make this for a crowd - once you start eating it, it's hard to stop. So share and give some away - you only need a little bowl of this stuff to feel satisfied.