The name "macaroni pie" is confusing on multiple fronts. This recipe, from Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart's Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, is neither a pie nor made from macaroni. It also obscures the fact that the dish in question is actually just custard-style macaroni and cheese. But this old-school title is also a reminder of the history of the dish. In most older Southern cookbooks, all pasta was called "macaroni," no matter the shape. The spaghetti used in this recipe was favored by Dupree's mother-in-law. And the name pie? It is most likely an import from the Trinidadian name for a similar dish picked up in South Carolina.
Why I picked this recipe: Mac and cheese is total comfort food any time of year, and it would make an excellent addition to any picnic or potluck spread.
What worked: Despite the plethora of cheese and eggs, this macaroni pie actually tastes relatively light. The preparation process is much simpler than roux-based mac and cheeses as well: all you've gotta do is cook the pasta, grate the cheese, and whisk together the custard mixture. The oven does the rest.
What didn't: Measuring out 3 cups of cooked spaghetti is an exercise in frustration. I found that 3 cups worked out to about 8 ounces dry.
Suggested tweaks: You can use any type of pasta you prefer, but the spaghetti actually makes for a pretty fun twist on the usual noodles. I used all cheddar cheese in this version, but a blend with the suggested Gruyère or fontina would taste great. A dusting of parmesan would also be good.
Reprinted with permission from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. Copyright 2012. Published by Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a side
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:1 1/2 to 2 hours
- 3 cups cooked and drained spaghetti (macaroni)
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 large eggs, beaten to mix
- 3 cups milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper, optional
- 1 pound sharp Cheddar or Gruyère cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roughly cut the cooked spaghetti into 3-inch pieces and toss with half the butter. Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk in a large bowl. Add the mustard, salt, peppers, and half the cheese. Put half the spaghetti into a greased 3-quart baking dish, sprinkle with cheese to cover and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Ladle on half the egg/cheese mixture, top with the rest of the spaghetti. Ladle on the remainder of the mixture and enough cheese and the remaining butter to cover the top. If the dish is deep, it may not need all the cheese.
Move to the preheated oven. If the dish is less than three inches deep, bake for 30 minutes; if deeper, bake for about 45 minutes. Check and reduce the heat 25 degrees if the cheese is browning too much or the custard is bubbling. Cover lightly with foil and continue to cook until a fork inserted in the custard comes out clean and the top is golden brown, up to 40 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the baking dish.