The Family Table: Mom’s 4-Ingredient Baked Macaroni

Readers share their treasured recipes
By The Family Table
The Family Table
The Family Table
October 29, 2021 Updated: October 29, 2021

Submitted by Patricia McAdams, Sun City Center, Florida

My mom, Martha Callahan, was a fantastic cook, but my favorite meal was her amazing macaroni, colored red because of a bit of tomato paste added to the recipe. Mom made this comfort food almost every Friday night when I was growing up.

I continued the tradition when I got married, and this became my children’s favorite meal as well. It was such a favorite that when they went off to college and were heading home, they asked me to make it for them for their “welcome home” dinner.

Fast forward a few years later to when they got married and my grandbabies arrived, and this macaroni became my grandchildren’s favorite meal as well. Every time I went to visit them, or they came to visit me, we would make it together.

I would drain the cooked macaroni and put it back in the pot, then place the pot in the sink. When they were 2 to 3 years old and sturdy enough to safely stand on a kitchen chair, I would set their chair by the sink, alongside me. They would climb aboard and finish the prep, adding the butter, grated cheese, and tomato paste and stirring to mix it all up.

Making macaroni became one of our traditions—and continues to this day—with both my children and my grandchildren, even though most of the grands are now in college. It’s just our “go-to” dinner whenever we’re together.

We always prepare extra so there will be plenty for midnight snacking, which always happens, and hopefully, breakfast as well. Leftover baked macaroni is very important in our family; no other food enjoys this ranking. A dish of macaroni popped into the microwave warms perfectly in just a minute. If ever there are still leftovers when everyone leaves, it also freezes great. I just put it in containers and it’s perfect for lunch one day.

Since there are only four main ingredients, it’s easy to stock up on them for unexpected company and situations, too.

Interestingly, the preparation of this comfort food is ongoing, as our grandchildren are making baked macaroni themselves now, in their own homes. I suspect that when their babies start to arrive, my great-grands will enjoy this feast as well. Thank you, Mom, for starting this delicious tradition.

Epoch Times Photo
One of the author’s grandchildren making her mother’s macaroni. (Courtesy of Patricia McAdams)

Martha Callahan’s Macaroni

You really need an extra sharp cheese. Milder Cheddar cheeses don’t have the same flavor and are unsatisfactory in this dish.

Also, while we do bake the macaroni, it’s not necessary. We always scoop off a portion to enjoy immediately before putting it into the oven.

Serves 5 to 6

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/2 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (we use 1 stick of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp White), grated or chopped up in a food processor
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the macaroni in a pot of boiling salted water, then drain and put it back into the pot. Add the butter, cheese, tomato paste (2/3 of the can is enough), and salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together. So easy.

Put into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (or other deep dish) and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes. Then serve.

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