Macaroni and cheese pie

Nothing says 'comfort' like macaroni and cheese. This grown-up version uses a savory combination of sharp cheeses and fresh herbs.

Tastes Like Home
This grown-up version of macaroni pie uses a savory combination of sharp cheeses and fresh herbs. The tomatoes are optional, but add a nice flavor and pop of color.

Macaroni Pie is a weekend and holiday staple on tables all across the Caribbean. Each country and indeed each home has its own recipe for making this dish.

Every time I make Macaroni Pie also known as Macaroni and Cheese, I like to change things up a bit. Not so much that diners would raise their eyebrows with skepticism or shake their heads indicating that something is not right. I change the flavors just so that they can nod with approval or say, "This is good pie." One can play around with a lot of things but don't ever fool around with people's macaroni pie. We take it seriously.

I LOVE smoked Gouda and it complimented the herbs very well in this pie. New Zealand cheddar, the brand Anchor is as homemade and Caribbean as one can get. We live for Anchor Cheese and not to be outdone is Australian cheddar. While we get English Cheddar, we certainly prefer the firm, sharp cheddar from New Zealand and Australia.

Herby Mac Pie with Smoked Gouda & Australian Cheese
Yield: 1 (9- x 13-inch) pan

1 lb. raw macaroni pasta (bucatini long, tubular and hollow in the center)
Water to cook pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra to butter dish
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh thyme or fresh oregano
1 tablespoon finely minced marjoram
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
2 teaspoons grated garlic (paste-like)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
5 cups grated cheese (2 cups smoked gouda, 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese mixed
together)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sliced tomatoes (optional but it adds a nice touch)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season water with salt to taste.

2. Add macaroni and cook according to package instructions. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and butter a 9- x 13-inch baking dish/pan and set aside.

3. Melt butter in saucepan on medium heat. When the butter is melted add the herbs and garlic and mix in with butter, cook for 30 seconds then add flour and stir to mix. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring often; do not let the mixture get brown.

4. Check the pasta and drain well and return to the hot pot in which it was cooked and cover. If you are using a pasta pot with the insert then you will need to pour off the water from the pot itself.

5. Back to the butter and flour mixture. Add the milk and stir until butter-flour mixture is dissolved. Raise the heat a little and bring the pot to a simmer; do not let it boil.

6. Stir constantly until sauce thickens; avoid lumps. The sauce is done when it can coat the back of a spoon and does not rejoin when you run your finger along the spoon.

7. Once thickened, remove the milk mixture from the heat and add in 3 cups of cheese, stirring until its melted.

8. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (remember the pasta will also be seasoned from cooking in the salted water).

9. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni in the pot and toss thoroughly to coat and mix. Transfer the mixture to the buttered dish and spread evenly.

10. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cup of cheese and arrange slices of tomatoes on top of the cheese

11. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden.

12. Remove from oven and let rest and cool before cutting

NOTES
I would suggest placing the dish with the macaroni pie on a foil-lined sheet pan just in case the is any bubbling over, it will spill on the pan and not in the oven itself.

You whatever cheese you have on hand but a sharp, salty cheese works great.

The longer the macaroni and cheese rests after baking, the easier it is to cut and serve in blocks/large cubes; the cheese sauce solidifies as it rests. However, you can serve it right away but it will not be as firm.

Elbows and tubular-shaped pasta are ideal; penne works well, too.

Related post on Tastes Like Home: Sweet potato pie

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