Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese...a family classic

Many years ago, when I was just getting to know my husband and his family, I learned that one of their favorite family dinners was homemade macaroni and cheese. Traditionally, they would serve it with tomato juice on the side, and a shredded cabbage salad. That's it. That was the whole meal.

This was puzzling to me at first, coming from my Italian/American background. (I was like: "Don't they serve meatballs, or a turkey, or something with it?") And then, the idea of pouring tomato juice over the macaroni was almost more than I could handle. They all assured me that I would like it though. And what else was I gonna do besides give it a try, right?

Well from the first time I tried it, I was smitten. To me, this truly was classic, American comfort food AT IT'S BEST! The crispy top along with the cheesy, buttery inside melted in my mouth. And as hard as it was to admit, I immediately became hooked on how the flavor of the tomato juice (preferably Sacramento) mingled so nicely with the cheese!

This dish continues to be a family tradition. My mother in law Barbara still makes it the best. But I make it too, quite often. And when I do, I double the recipe, because everyone goes back for second and thirds. Then we have the rest for breakfast or lunch the next day (it's that good). So here it is, from our family, to yours!


1 to 1.5 lbs sharp cheddar cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
1 pound elbow macaroni
milk (I will explain how much later)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large can of Sacramento tomato juice

Mix together and toss:
1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
veg. oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper (all mixed together to your taste, as a dressing)

Macaroni & Cheese instructions:
Cook the pasta, draining and cooling RIGHT BEFORE you would consider it "al dente". It will finish cooking in the oven. Melt the butter, shred the cheddar cheese, and toss them both with the warm pasta. ( I should tell you that Barbara thinly slices both the butter and cheese instead of melting/shredding them, and tosses them into the pasta that way.)

Next, place the mixture into a baking pan, and add salt and pepper to your taste. Top with additional cheddar cheese.

Next is a critical step: add milk until the bottom of the baking pan is filled about 1/3 of the way up (see photo).

Then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Broil for about 30 seconds before removing from oven if you like the top crispy like we do. Warm the tomato juice and serve in a gravy pitcher at the table. Enjoy with cabbage salad and big smiles, guaranteed!


  1. Oh man, that looks incredible! I love cabbage too, sounds like that would go with it perfectly.