Every Caribbean mommy has a macaroni pie recipe. It's made as many different ways as there are women to reinvent this recipe and make it their own.
The barebones version, the kind you can find in every New York roti shop, is a little more than a baked macaroni and cheese casserole, but when a Caribbean mommy starts burning, which here means cooking up some homestyle comfort food, stand back and take notes.
I got a Barbados version by way of St. Vincent from my wonderful friend, Andrea Jacobs, and made it my own. Many if not most recipes call for egg, but I happened to be out of eggs when I made mine recently and discovered they were not necessarily an essential ingredient - good news to those with egg allergies.
If you're pressed for time, you can use packaged grated cheese with good results.
This is a great side dish for cookouts, potlucks and family gatherings. I like to divide the dish into smaller foil containers so we can have one for now and another for later. The Macaroni Pie freezes well and can go straight from the freezer to the oven for reheating.
Southern-style Macaroni Pie
16 ounces short pasta (I prefer penne, but many like elbow or other shapes)
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon (Vegeta or Mrs. Dash works too)
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (about 2cups)
8 ounces mozzarella, grated (about 2 cups)
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
4 oz butter (one stick)
salt and pepper to taste
Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Reserve one half cup of the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses to top the Macaroni pie.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water and pour in the pasta. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. The pasta should not be soft, but be a little firm to bite.
Drain pasta well in a colander, and then pour it back into the cooking pot. Add the bouillon, cheeses, half the stick of butter and half of the bread crumbs to the pasta.
Salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine all of the ingredients well.
Pour the pasta mixture into the greased baking dish, top with remaining cheeses and bread crumbs. Bake in a preheated oven for about an hour, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow the pie to rest for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Note: If the top begins to brown too quickly, add a piece of foil over the top of the baking dish.