July 11, 2020

Macaroni and Cheese In the Oven

Macaroni and Cheese in the Oven

Faith Pineo Photo | Macaroni and Cheese in the Oven

Editor’s note: Below is what may be the simplest, yet most controversial recipe in the world. Even we can’t agree. And yet, the leftovers never last long no matter who is cooking it. Which means you probably can’t lose either way.

My mother and grandmother are stellar Down East cooks. From the simplest of ingredients, they create the most delicious dishes. Growing up, a perennial favorite was macaroni and cheese. But not the boxed variety or something made with 15 different cheeses that come from Mongolian yaks. No, just from things you can readily pull from fridge and pantry and not spend a fortune to make or dirty every dish in the house.

So here’s our next recipe. If you ever stop in for supper some chilly night ask if we’re having what we’ve always called, “Macaroni and cheese in the oven”. There’s a good chance we will. And if you’re late, the leftovers are even better!

Macaroni and Cheese In the Oven

Cook 1lb of macaroni until slightly overdone. Drain.

Place half of pasta in a 9×13 baking dish. Place 6-7 slices of American cheese on top. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese*. With a liberal hand shake on some dry mustard (shhhh! It’s our secret ingredient!) and black pepper to taste. Top with remaining pasta and 6-7 additional slices of cheese.

In a bowl, melt 1/2 stick of butter or margarine. Crush up 1 sleeve of saltine crackers and mix. Use as topping for mac and cheese.

Gently add approx. 2-3 cups milk (we use skim for a “healthier” version) to dish.

Bake in a 375* oven for 40-45 minutes until bubbly. You may need to lightly place a piece of foil over the top to prevent crackers from overbrowning.

Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

We like to serve ours with baked beans and a variety of our homemade pickles.

*The parmesan cheese is optional. Certain Pineo cooks like to add it for the extra tang and saltiness while certain other Pineo cooks think it’s ruinous to the original dish.

– Faith Pineo

Editor’s Note: The other Pineo cook weighs in: It doesn’t need parmesan. Just add more slices of American on each layer so that the macaroni is nearly covered, much like a blanket of cheese (usually about 12 slices of cheese per layer). I also dot a bit of margarine on each layer, approximately totaling 2 tablespoons per layer. And they wonder why mine tastes so good … and is eaten so quickly … with any leftovers swiftly devoured.

The process is this: Place half of macaroni in baking dish. Sprinkle dry mustard and black pepper over macaroni. Dot with margarine. Cover with cheese blanket. Repeat for second layer.

After you place cracker topping, make a tiny hole in topping and gently pour in milk until you can see the milk coming up around the macaroni. Brush topping back over where you poured on milk.

Place in oven and bake until bubbly. I have never had to use foil to keep topping from getting too brown (how can we cook this so differently is beyond me), and love to serve it with a fresh salad.

Also, unless I am working or incapacitated, guess which one of us is asked to make this the most often? Go on, guess.

– Janine Pineo, aka the other Pineo cook
Also editor, and therefore gets final word