This post about for Trinidad macaroni pie has inadvertently become the perfect follow up to my last post, where I discussed cooking other people’s food.
Macaroni pie is a popular Trinidadian baked pasta dish that is made up of macaroni, cheese, eggs, evaporated milk and seasonings. I grew up eating my mom’s sweet macaroni pie which is essentially a basic macaroni pie recipe, with the addition of 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I love how the sweet pie pairs with stewed chicken, and no matter how many other versions I try, I will always prefer my mom’s pie over everyone else’s.
I shared that recipe on my blog about six years ago, and it’s one of my most popular recipes today. However, I recently realized that no one else makes their macaroni pie sweet…
“Traditional” Trinidad macaroni pie is made with macaroni, eggs, grated cheese, evaporated milk, salt and white pepper. Optional add-ins include grated onion or carrot, chopped herbs and tomato. At least, these are the ingredients that are listed in the 2002 edition of the Naparima Girls’s High School Cookbook (officially titled The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago & the Caribbean). This is the quintessential book on Trinidadian cuisine, and every Trinidadian family seems to have a copy of the book in their home.
The first edition, published in 1988, lists only macaroni, eggs, cheese and carnation milk as the ingredients for the recipe. Salt, black pepper and grated onion are optional. Personally, I can see why they altered the recipe in the second edition of the book… I can’t imagine that the original recipe would be very tasty!
I asked my friends and family to divulge what they put in their macaroni pies. Everyone said their pies are savoury, and everyone said they use milk and eggs. Some people use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, while others prefer just aged cheddar cheese. Some people add herbs, others add ketchup and mustard, and I have one aunt that makes a really tasty version with powdered ginger.
My friend Heather from Heather’s Eats shared a Bajan (meaning from Barbados) macaroni cheese pie recipe with me too. That one was heavy on the mustard, using both hot English mustard and regular yellow mustard. It also included ketchup, onion and red pepper sauce, with optional sweet bell peppers, butter and breadcrumbs.
The recipe really varies from family to family, which makes me wonder who gets to decide which version of Trinidad macaroni pie is authentic? I’m Trinidadian-born, my parents are also Trinidadian, as are my grandparents on both sides. We’ve always made our macaroni pie sweet, and no one else seems to. So does that mean that my mom’s pie isn’t authentic? If we’re using the Naparima cookbooks as the official source, then my mom’s version isn’t traditional either. But it’s our food – Trinidadian food. If we’re only meant to cook “our own people’s food” in order to preserve our culture and avoid bastardizing someone else’s, who gets to decide which recipes are the gold standard and which are not?
If you read my previous post, then you already know that I don’t agree with this whole idea of not being able to cook “other people’s” food. There are so many variations in recipe, from country to country, village to village, even person to person, that it’s a bit ridiculous to think that certain recipes should be made one way and one way alone in order to be correct.
This is my version of Trinidad macaroni pie – the savoury version that most people seem to enjoy. I tried making one with raw grated onion added in, just a quarter cup of it, and I really disliked it. So I’ve opted to cook my onions down so they become a bit sweeter before adding them to the pie. If you want the onion flavour, without the work, you can substitute a teaspoon on onion powder instead.
I’ve also used dry mustard powder instead of prepared mustard, but you can use whatever you have on hand. For the cheese, you can use any cheddar that you like. I used a blend of white and orange aged cheddar cheese, but I’ve also used marble cheese in the past and it works out great (although the flavour is milder). In Trinidad, they get New Zealand cheddar cheese, so if you can find that it’s a good option.
If you try making this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know if you enjoyed it. Or, if you usually make macaroni pie at home, let me know what you like to add to yours!
A classic Trinidadian baked pasta dish with cheese.
- 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (16oz/1lb)
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
- 3 large eggs
- 2 2/3 cups evaporated milk (2 cans Carnation milk)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 3½ cups grated aged cheddar cheese reserve ½ cup for topping
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9x11 baking dish, and set aside.
Boil macaroni in salted water according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the macaroni and place back into the pot, leaving it off the heat to cool down.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, cook until softened and slightly caramelized. Scrape the onions and melted butter into the pot with the macaroni. Stir to combine.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Add milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard, dried thyme and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine.
Pour the egg mixture over the macaroni and stir until well coated.
Stir in 3 cups of the shredded cheese.
Pour into a greased, 9x11 baking dish and top with reserved ½ cup of shredded cheese.
Bake until the pie is firm, and the top is golden brown. About 35-40 minutes.
Allow pie to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Cold cheese is easier to shred than warm cheese
- This dish is traditionally made with Trinidad-style cheese (New Zealand cheddar) but you can use any cheddar you like, or use a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella.
- Aged cheddar will taste more "cheesy" than a mild cheddar
- If the cheese on top begins to brown too quickly, cover it with tin foil for the remaining baking time