Macaroni pie is a favorite side dish for lunch, especially on a Sunday! It is made with macaroni, milk, seasonings and lots and lots of cheese.
To keep the macaroni together, most Trinis use either eggs or a roux. My way though is different to the traditional Trini macaroni pie. It doesn’t stay together when it’s fresh out of the oven but, after an hour or so, it firms up nicely and won’t fall apart (as much). Oh and don’t get me started on the cheesy, gooey crust…
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Macaroni pie ingredients
For my non-traditional macaroni pie, I usually use:
- macaroni: long macaroni is almost always used in Trini macaroni pie recipes but you can use elbow macaroni as a substitute.
- milk: I have tried evaporated, full cream and low fat milk when making macaroni pie. Evaporated milk has a richer flavor and binds the macaroni together much better than the other dairy options so I prefer using it.
- cheese: New Zealand cheddar cheese is salty, gooey and the preferred type of cheese for macaroni pie. It’s just not the same without it. If you can’t find this cheese, then substitute for sharp cheddar. Mozzarella may be too mild here.
- butter: I usually use unsalted butter.
- salted crackers: For my non-traditional recipe, I often add ground salted crackers (Crix) to the base and top of the pie. Breadcrumbs can also be used.
- seasonings: In this particular recipe, I used onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and Italian seasoning for the pie. Here is where you can add all of your favorite flavors like mustard, chopped chives, diced onion, minced garlic, sweet peppers, carrots, pimento peppers, corn, mushrooms, rosemary, and chunks of meat. The possibilities are endless.
How to make macaroni pie
Boil the macaroni
Step 1: Place a large pot on medium heat. Add water and salt. Cover and allow the water to come to a rolling boil (this can take about 5 minutes).
Step 2: Break the macaroni in half and add to the boiling water. Stir occasionally and leave uncovered to cook until al dente. This can take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Prepare the pie
Step 3: Grate the cheese. I usually cut the cheese into large cubes and blend them in the food processor for about 15 seconds or so (leaving for longer will cause the cheese to clump together). The cheese comes out as crumbs instead of long, grated strands. It’s not as pretty, but it’s quick. Feel free to use a box grater instead.
Step 4: Grind the salted crackers. Again, I add the crackers to the food processor and about 30 seconds later the crackers become powdery. You can also add the crackers to a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to grind everything.
Step 5: Add some of the ground crackers to a large baking dish (I used an 8″ x 11″ dish here). Spread everything out to form a thin even layer.
Step 6: Sprinkle some of the grated cheese over the cracker layer. Set aside for later.
Step 7: If you are planning on using any of the fresh seasonings I mentioned in the ingredients section, prepare them at this point. I love chopped chives and pimento peppers in my pie. You can also sauté some of the ingredients beforehand like onion, carrots, mushrooms, etc.
Bring everything together
Step 8: Preheat the oven at 375°F.
Step 9: Strain the macaroni when it is al dente.
Step 10: Return the pot to the stove on medium heat. Add evaporated milk (not ALL, save some for later), cheese (save some for the topping), butter, salt, pepper, and seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and Italian seasoning (save some for the topping). If you prepped any veggies, aromatics or other spices, add to the pot.
Step 11: Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring often. The milk should thicken and become absorbed by the macaroni. Taste test and adjust the flavors.
Step 12: Gently pour the macaroni into the prepped baking dish, spreading everything evenly.
Step 13: Add a layer of ground crackers over the macaroni.
Step 14: Sprinkle cheese over the Crix layer and the remaining Italian seasoning. Pour the remaining milk over the pie. The milk will soak into the cracker layer and bind everything together (don’t skip this otherwise the crust will be dry and powdery).
Step 15: Place the macaroni pie on the top shelf of the preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted completely and browned nicely. The crust is the best part!
Step 16: Remove from the heat and allow to cool down. If you cut the pie while hot, it will fall apart on you but, as it cools, the cheese and milk will bind everything together.
My Trini macaroni pie recipe
Trini macaroni pie without eggs (not traditional)
- 300 g macaroni
- 6 cups water
- 3 tsp salt (1½ tsp for boiling the macaroni; remainder for the pie)
- 300 g cheese (50g for the base; 150g for the pie; 100g for the topping)
- 100 g salted crackers (Crix) (25g for the base; 75 g for the topping)
- 330 mL evaporated milk (275 mL for the pie; remainder for the topping)
- 30 g butter
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1½ tsp garlic powder
- 1½ tsp Italian seasoning (1 tsp for the pie; ½ tsp for the topping)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- optional seasonings (like mustard, chopped chives, diced onion, sweet peppers, pimento peppers, etc).
- food processor (optional)
Boil the macaroni
- Add large pot on medium heat.
- Pour in water and 1½ tsp salt.
- Bring water to a boil (about 5 minutes).
- Break macaroni in half. Add to boiling water. Stir.
- Cook until macaroni is al dente (approx 8 – 10 minutes).
Prep the base
- Grate cheese.
- Grind the salted crackers.
- Add 25g of ground crackers to a large baking dish (like 8” x 11”). Spread evenly.
- Sprinkle 50g of cheese over the cracker layer.
- Set aside.
Make macaroni pie
- Prepare optional ingredients, if necessary.
- Preheat oven at 375°F.
- Strain macaroni once cooked.
- Place macaroni back into the pot on medium heat.
- Add 275 mL evaporated milk, 150g cheese, butter, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper, optional seasonings, 1½ tsp salt and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning to the macaroni.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Simmer for 5 minutes or until the milk thickens.
- Taste test. Adjust any flavors.
- Pour the thickened macaroni mixture into the prepped baking dish. Spread evenly.
- Sprinkle 75g of ground crackers over the macaroni.
- Top with the remaining cheese (100g).
- Add ½ tsp of Italian seasoning over the cheese.
- Pour the remaining milk (55mL) over everything.
- Place macaroni pie on the top shelf of the oven.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping becomes crisp.
- Remove from oven. Leave to cool before cutting.