Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie
My grandmother used to make a mac and cheese that she referred to as “macaroni pie”.  In my family, growing up, we just called it macaroni (no feathers, no caps, no Yankee Doodle).  It was the only kind of macaroni and cheese that I knew until I went away to college and my roommates were eating the stuff out of the box. I was pretty surprised to learn that Granny’s macaroni pie was a good deal different than what the rest of the world seemed to be eating. Her mac and cheese was custard based and had cubes of cheese throughout it rather than having a cheesy sauce mixed with macaroni.  Macaroni pie was standard fair at many homes and family gatherings throughout the low country in South Carolina and I LOVED it.  It was and is one of my favorite foods.
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Up until the past few days, I thought that Granny’s quaint Southern term of “macaroni pie” was exactly that, a quaint Southern term.  Shoot.  I was really showing my own ignorance by thinking that my grandmother, with her 6th grade education, was the one who didn’t know proper terminology or how to make real macaroni and cheese.  After the things I have read, I’m ashamed of myself.  Granny was 100% correct in calling what she made “Macaroni Pie” and I am amazed at how little I knew/know about my own food cultural heritage.

Let me tell you about it.  And Tricia, pay close attention because this will fit in really well with your cultural cuisine class.

I did an internet search on recipes for macaroni pie which surprisingly lead me to recipes from Barbados and other parts of the Caribbean.  As I read blogs and other information about macaroni pie I discovered that the way Granny made macaroni pie was pretty much the way it is made in the Caribbean.  Hmm.  I pondered that little piece of information for a minute or two.  Sooo…how did the macaroni pie recipe which is used in Barbados and the Caribbean end up in my grandmother’s backwoods kitchen in South Carolina?  Something niggled at my brain from waaaaaaay back in 3rd grade when I had studied South Carolina history.  With a few taps on my computer keys using the search words “South Carolina history” and a simple click on the first thing that popped up, which was a Wikipedia article, I was appropriately chastised.  “The proprietary colony of Carolina was first settled at Charles Town (modern day Charleston) in 1670, mostly by immigrants from the British colony of Barbados in the Caribbean.”

Oh.  Now ain’t that interesting.

So, I ask you, what family favorites do you have?  Anything with an odd name?  Anything that seems a little bit different than what people outside of your immediate childhood locality eat?  Do you have any recipes that have been handed down through the generations?  Do a  little research; you might be surprised at what you learn.

Macaroni Pie
Macaroni Pie

Recipe by Terri @ that's some good cookin'

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dry elbow pasta (macaroni), cooked al dente (leave it a little on the firm side)
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 1/2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika + extra for sprinkling on top of the macaroni before baking (the smoked paprika is really important for flavor)
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
  2. Drain cooked macaroni well. Make sure that it is well drained–stir it around gently in the colander to encourage any water that may be trapped in the tube of the macaroni to drain out.
  3. Put the macaroni in a large mixing bowl.Cook macaroni in salted water to a firm al dente. You’ll want it a little bit firm because it will soften more while cooking.
  4. Add the cubed cheese to the hot macaroni and mix to distribute. Putting the cheese into the hot macaroni will encourage the cheese to start its melting process. Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Pour over the macaroni and cheese cubes and mix together.
  6. Pour into a lightly buttered baking dish such as a glass 9? x 13? or some other 3-quart baking dish. The custard mixture should almost cover the noodles. If necessary, add a little more milk–just pour it right into the dish. Don’t worry, everything works out.
  7. Dot with pats of butter and sprinkle with a little more smoked paprika. Bake at 375-degrees F until set and the top is golden brown about 45 minutes-1 hour. Check it after 45 minutes to see how things are doing. The top should be golden and the center should be soft set, but not soupy or jiggly.
http://tsgcookin.com/2010/11/macaroni-pie-2/

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Serve with just about anything.  My favorites?  A dinner of fried chicken, fresh-from-the-garden sliced tomatoes, fresh cucumbers, butter beans, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and banana pudding for dessert.  Or hamburgers and hotdogs. Or Thanksgiving dinner.  Or Christmas dinner.  Or Easter dinner.  Or all by itself for lunch the next day.

Macaroni Pie Cut the cheese into cubes.  These are approximately 1/2″, more or less
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Macaroni Pie Mix the cheese cubes with the macaroni.  The hot macaroni will soften the cheese cubes.
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Macaroni Pie Blend the eggs with a fork.  Do a good job so that the yolks and the whites are well combined.
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Macaroni Pie Add the milk, salt, pepper, and paprika to the eggs and whisk until combined.
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Macaroni Pie Pour egg/milk/seasoning mixture over the noodles and cheese.
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Macaroni Pie Now pour everything into a buttered baking dish.  For this amount of macaroni pie I used a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish.
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Macaroni Pie Place thinly sliced pieces of butter on top of everything.  Bake at 350-degrees for about 1 hour, more or less, until set and golden on top.  Over-baking is somewhat better than under-baking.  You can tell if this is under-baked because it will jiggle or be soupy in the middle.  If it is over-baked you will have more crunchies–which doesn’t really get any complaints at my house.
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Macaroni Pie Now look at this.  It is pretty much darn well perfect.  I lucked out on that one!
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Macaroni Pie
The custardy/noodley parts of this are soft with a nice blend of salt, pepper, and paprika.  The melted cheese cubes add a great taste and texture balance and when you hit a crunch or two from the beautiful brown parts, look out baby because it is heaven!

This post has been linked to Mom’s Crazy Cooking

Comments

  1. says

    OK slap yourself on the wrist for your culinary ignorance. ;) But I kind of like how you mentioned a custard based M n C. Sounds intriguing. I guess that flavor would make it more of a dessert recipe though.

  2. says

    Having a custard base would make it sound more like a dessert, but this is cheesy and savory and more like a strata, with the macaroni replacing the bread. The custard type base more or less suspends the cheese and the noodles, giving a denser, but soft, and richer product, especially if cream or half and half is used in place of the milk. In the low country of South Carolina, macaroni pie is often served along side fried chicken, ham, sometimes barbecue, and almost any vegetable. In my grandmother’s kitchen a typical meal would include fried chicken, mashed potatoes, butter beans, macaroni pie, sliced tomatoes, and biscuits. People in that area of the country include(d) macaroni pie with their meals in a similar way that Italians use spaghetti…it just belongs!

  3. Anonymous says

    Terri…great blog and great history lesson about the Barbados connection. Except for Dad, we Cravens also called it “Macaroni and Cheese” as opposed to “Macaroni Pie.” I thought the “pie” part was simply a low-country term. Mom just shared this blog with me, and I haven’t looked it over fully yet–but I’ll just mention that my mother-in-law makes this version (slight modifications) in a crock pot. It’s delicious too! –Deryl

  4. says

    In South Louisiana, we’ve got quite a bit of Caribbean influence and we eat this, universally – although some in the North call it “soul food”. We call it Baked Macaroni, and it’s a side, with chicken, green beans – and always at Thanksgiving dinner. I was googling to find a good, typical Southern mac and cheese recipe like my Mama and Grandma make, and this is it. The Italian influence maybe got us to substitute ziti or bucatini pasta for elbow macaroni. Thanks for the history lesson and the recipe.

    • says

      Yes, always with chicken and green beans and at Thanksgiving! It’s good to know that baked macaroni is alive and well in Louisiana. As for which pasta to use, my mom sometimes used to make it with linguini because one time she was out of elbow macaroni. My brother ended up liking the linguini version better than the macaroni version, so sometimes on special occasions he would ask mom to make it with linguini.

  5. Sharon says

    I am from Barbados and I just may try this way(usually just “mix up” everything in a saucepan and transfer it)
    Looks delicious!

    Also loved the history

    • says

      Sharon, thanks for leaving a comment. I have wanted to talk to someone from Barbados to get the Barbados side of the macaroni pie story. Macaroni pie was an absolute standard at every family reunion, with each cook declaring her macaroni pie to be the best. This dish was served also frequently at regular family dinners. It was so interesting for me to learn its origins. From what I have learned of the Barbados version, it is supposed to be quite spicy. Is this true? Mild paprika is standard in the Southern version, but I never had a hot pepper version. ~Terri

      • Cherone says

        Hi Teri,

        Loved your piece on macaroni pie. The historical connection is interesting. This was just shared on a local (Barbadian) facebook page. Would be great if you could see the responses. Macaroni Pie is a Barbadian staple but I’ve never known it to be spicy.

        • says

          Hi Cherone. Thank you for the compliment. I LOVE macaroni pie and am going to make some to go along with our family dinner this Sunday.

          It’s great that people are sharing this post on facebook. Hopefully (finger’s crossed) nice things are being said. As for my stating that macaroni pie is spicy in Barbados, I was basing that off of a number of recipes I had found from Barbados when I was researching recipes from there on the internet. Just like so many favorite foods, I guess that every family has their own take on the recipe. Thank you for sharing your insights! Have a good day. ~Terri

  6. Sheila says

    This recipe takes me back to when I was a young girl and grandma used to make macaroni pie for us. My grandmother was from Charleston South Carolina and I also never had macaroni from a box til I was older. This recipe is so close to my grandmothers it’s unreal. Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe.

    • says

      Sheila, it’s my pleasure to have posted this recipe. It will always be a favorite from my childhood. I’m glad that your grandmother made macaroni pie for you, too. I have found that people who were raised with macaroni pie are fiercely loyal to it. :) ~Terri

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