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Recipes and Stories

30 March 2018: Fresh for Easter IV

Old-Fashioned Southern Baked Macaroni or Macaroni Pie – Photography by John Carrington

My maternal grandfather, Levis Holmes, first made his way in the world as a farmer, but I knew him as a grocer and butcher. He was also a fine cook. Though entirely self-taught, his instincts were solid.

His version of the old American standard was a fixture on our table for any holiday meal, and we’ll be having a variation of it for our Easter Dinner this Sunday.

Granddaddy didn’t use Parmigiano, of course, but his cheddar was aged three years at least, and was so sharp it would take the roof off your mouth. The Parmigiano mixed in gives our cheddar a bit of that bite. He also added saltine crackers, which followed an old Southern tradition.

Old Fashioned Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese or Macaroni Pie

My grandfather inserted whole saltine crackers around the edges of the dish and at regular intervals throughout. Older Southern recipes called for the crackers to be crushed and layered with the macaroni. I rarely add them nowadays unless I’m feeling really nostalgic.

Serves 6-8

1 pound macaroni (see notes below)
2 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
Whole black pepper in a peppermill

1. Position a rack in the center of oven and preheat it to 375° F. Bring 4-quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Stir in small handful salt and the macaroni. Cook about 4-5 minutes, or until softened, but not quite done. Drain well, add the butter, and toss coated.

2. Butter a deep 2-quart casserole. Add the macaroni, Parmigiano, and all but ½ cup of the cheddar and gently toss until mixed.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until smooth, then gradually beat in the milk. Pour over the macaroni. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and pepper. Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown on top and firm, about 30 minutes.

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