Nana’s Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Add the macaroni noodles.
  4. Boil the noodles for HALF of the recommended time (Nana calls this “parboiling”), about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
  6. Add the noodles to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Drain the liquid from the tomatoes into the mixing bowl with the noodles.
  8. Dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
  9. Add the tomato to the noodles.
  10. Add the cheese cubes and shredded cheese.
  11. Mix until well-combined.
  12. Pour the noodle mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish.
  13. Add the milk, egg, sea salt, and black pepper to the now empty mixing bowl.
  14. Mix the milk and eggs until well-combined.
  15. 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).
  16. Put the salted-top crackers in a plastic bag.
  17. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers into fine crumbs.
  18. Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the noodles, making sure to completely cover any exposed noodles so they do not dry out.
  19. Bake for 1 ½ hours (the edges should be slightly browned and the topping golden-coloured)
  20. Remove from oven.
  21. Allow the casserole to stand for 15-20 minutes on the counter.
  22. Serve and enjoy!

Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost $1.40 per serving).

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14 Comments

  1. I think this is my favourite of all your posts so far. A wonderful walk down your memory lane!

    The Mac’n’Cheese I grew up with was a no-bake one involving cheez-whiz and plenty of ketchup. It was by no means on the same level as casseroles like this one, but I loved it and, even though I haven’t made it since my university days, it will always be my comfort food. I think I’ll have to try this recipe though!

    Reply
    • Thanks Jeanette! I’ve actually been working on this post since December! It took me a while to decide what story/background should go with this recipe. And I guess getting older pushed me to actually getting around to posting it!

      Your Mac and Cheese sounds like fantastic comfort food! I like a bit of ketchup on Mac and cheese as well… Bryan thinks I’m weird. 🙂

      Love that you’re back in the kitchen btw! Can’t wait to see more recipes in your blog.

      Reply
  2. I love the history of the dish and the sense of how special it is – will definitely try to do it myself soon – sounds and looks gorgeous – would love to have the magic to allow us to cook together over the net!!

    Reply
    • Thank you! I’m really glad I was able to convey the importance of this dish in writing. This post was a long time in the making and went through many edits to get to where it is. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      And, if you do get around to making it, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      Reply
  3. A lovely & very appetizing dinner that I must try, my friend! 🙂
    Yummmm! It looks amazing!

    Reply
    • Thanks Sophie! It’s a favourite with most of my family… I think you would enjoy it!

      Reply
  4. when food is linked to family and good memories, THAT is what eating is all about.

    ..that and creamy carby yumminess. haha.. mac and cheese is my kryptonite. throw in some toms like you did and you’ve got me for life.

    Thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal & real food posts. Thanks! xo, kristy

    Reply
  5. Thanks Kristy! This is definitely a comfort food for many reasons! I tend to make a big batch during the exams season!

    Reply
  6. I call my nana nana too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And this mac and cheese casserole looks AMAZING! Total comfort food!

    Reply
    • As a child, I was lucky enough to have grandparents that liked to spend time together… apparently it was a conscience decisions that one would be Nana and the other Grandma to lessen confusion. My fond memories are of Nana’s meals and Grandma’s desserts! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  7. What a fantastic recipe to be handed down and it’s great that you’ve immortalized it on your blog. Very nice.

    Reply
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