Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tomato and Mushroom Mac & Cheese

Yesterday while I was talking to myself trying to come up with something to bring to a potluck we went to this afternoon, Matt suggested my family's Tomato and Mushroom Mac & Cheese.
Oh, yes. This recipe has been in my family for at least 50 years. It was passed down from my Great Nana, whom I never had the pleasure to meet since she passed away before I was born. I've heard many great stories about her though, and I love carrying on her memory by making her recipes all these years later.

We used to have this a lot growing up, and it was one of my favorites. I had all but fogotten about it until I got married four years ago, when my bridesmaids gave me a scrapbook full of recipes from family and friends. I love that her recipe doesn't include many measurements. She used terms like "a lot of salt," "some mushrooms," and simply, "cheese," so I had to figure out some of the ingredient amounts on my own.

This is not your traditional mac & cheese made with a bechamel sauce. It's very simple and consists only of macaroni cooked with tomatoes, then layered up with mushrooms and cheddar cheese.

My mom used to use casserole elbows (the big fat ones) when we were growing up, but I can never find them anymore so I use cavatappi - it's a big curly pasta and is fun to eat.

The trick is not to shred the cheese, but to cut it in thick slices (and um, it's way less work too).

Ever since I received this recipe card four years ago, it's been a tradition in this house to eat Nana's mac & cheese every year on the night before Christmas Eve. I wondered if my sister and I just loved it because we grew up with it, but the first time Matt tried it he was hooked. We look forward to it pretty much all of December.

This is not a fancy dish by any means, but it's comforting and so very good. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Nana's Tomato and Mushroom Mac & Cheese

1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes (I use Tuttorosso)
5 1/2 cups water
4 tsp. salt
1 1b. macaroni
16 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. butter
24 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, cut in thick slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the tomatoes into a large pot, and break them up with your fingers. Add 5 1/4 cups water and the salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the macaroni and reduce heat to medium. Boil the macaroni until tender, about 15 minutes, adding more water as needed. Most of the water should be absorbed when the pasta is done.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Once melted, add the mushrooms and saute until soft, but do not brown. Drain any excess liquid from the mushrooms and discard.

Grease a 9x12 baking pan with cooking spray and layer as follows:

- Half the macaroni/tomato mixture
- All the mushrooms
- Half the cheese
- The remaining macaroni/tomato mixture
- The remaining cheese

Bake for about 20 minutes, until melted and bubbly.


  1. If you pick the mushies you might end up on a magic ride full of purple swirls :-)

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  2. Just one of dozens of variations I've seen for traditional Mac N Cheese. The thing with yours is that it is from your tradition. That's what makes it special!