This post is for my childhood best friend and her mom. I know you’ll be reading this and you’ve wanted to know the “secret” macaroni and cheese recipe for a while now (I put sectret in quote not because this recipe is secret… but because it’s one of those things I had to be in the kitchen to learn, there wasn’t a written recipe for a while). This recipe is my progress so far at imitating Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. It’s not quite as delicious as hers (yet). She jokingly told me last weekend that hers tastes better because of the added love. 🙂
To me, this is my all-time favourite comfort food. It reminds me of my childhood. When I was in grade school, Dad would pick my brother and I up from school during lunch hour and we would go visit Nana and Boppa (I had trouble saying Papa as a toddler and the nickname “Boppa”stuck). Nana always had a fantastic meal ready when we arrived. We ate lunch, visited, and Dad dropped us back at school on his way to work. Back then, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have a home-cooked meal every day. And to spend time with my family at every meal.
Nana’s repertoire seemed endless, I remember homemade soups (chicken noodle, cream of asparagus) and sandwiches (grilled cheese made with a sandwich press, ham, turkey, hot chicken with gravy). Lunch was rarely the same two days in a row.
My favourite was always the Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. This was Dad’s least favourite meal, so Matt and I would beg Nana to make it. And she would.
I miss those lunches. But it’s a fantastic memory! As we grew up, we went to different schools, Dad was moved to an office that was further away, and eventually Nana decided to move. We still try to get the family together on weekends for dinner when possible.
Over the years, I’ve tried my best to learn from Nana and imitate the recipe. You see, it was originally my Great Grandmother’s recipe and it had never been written down. Interestingly, Nana tells me that she and her sisters each have their own way of making the recipe. And each of them insists theirs is “just like mom’s” The differences are minor: the tenderness of the pasta before it is added to the casserole, the topping, the way you prepare the cheese, and whether or not you include the liquid from the canned tomatoes…
I hope to learn to make more family recipes, but this is the one that I hope to perfect soon!
Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
- 2 cups dried macaroni noodles – approximate cost $0.60
- 1 sleeve salted top crackers – approximate cost $0.60
- 1 796 mL can of whole tomatoes, undrained – approximate cost $1.25
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
- ½ teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
- 1 egg – approximate cost $0.30
- 1 cup milk (the type of milk has changed over the years, I currently use whole milk or 2%, Nana uses Skim or 1%) – approximate cost $1.33
- 250 grams of medium cheddar cheese, cubed – approximate cost $3.50
- 250 grams of medium cheddar cheese, shredded – approximate cost $3.50
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the macaroni noodles.
- Boil the noodles for HALF of the recommended time (Nana calls this “parboiling”), about 4-5 minutes.
- Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
- Add the noodles to a large mixing bowl.
- Drain the liquid from the tomatoes into the mixing bowl with the noodles.
- Dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
- Add the tomato to the noodles.
- Add the cheese cubes and shredded cheese.
- Mix until well-combined.
- Pour the noodle mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish.
- Add the milk, egg, sea salt, and black pepper to the now empty mixing bowl.
- Mix the milk and eggs until well-combined.
- Pour milk mixture over the noodles (The noodles should be just covered, and it’s ok if a few tops of the pieces are not submerged. Add a bit extra milk if needed).
- Put the salted-top crackers in a plastic bag.
- Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers into fine crumbs.
- Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the noodles, making sure to completely cover any exposed noodles so they do not dry out.
- Bake for 1 ½ hours (the edges should be slightly browned and the topping golden-coloured)
- Remove from oven.
- Allow the casserole to stand for 15-20 minutes on the counter.
- Serve and enjoy!
Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost $1.40 per serving).
Wednesday Link Parties
- Cast Party Wednesday (hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain)
- Fresh Foods Wednesday (hosted by Kristy from Gastronomical Sovereignty)
- Allergy Free Wednesdays (hosted by Gluten Free Pantry, Real Food Allergy Free, The Tasty Alternative, Tessa The Domestic Diva, The Willing Cook, Gluten Freely Frugal, and Whole New Mom
- Whatcha’ Whipped Up Wednesday (hosted by DJ’s Sugar Shack)
- Wednesday Whatsits (hosted by White Lights on Wednesday)
- Fluster’s Creative Muster Party (hosted by Fluster Buster)