Today I am going to attempt to share a recipe for something that I don’t have an actual recipe for. I don’t even have a real name for it but it’s something that my family likes to eat as a side dish mostly with grilled or BBQ chicken. This is a dish that I first had while visiting family in North Carolina when I was in high school. My step mother’s sister lived there and I would go stay with her some in the summer time. She and I are pretty close in age and we had a lot of fun together and she had the most adorable little girl. Both sides of her husband’s family had farms and that is where I first ate what I call “Carolina Mac and Cheese”.
Now mind you I knew Mac and Cheese as something you bought in a box with a package of cheese sauce or powder and was a bit taken aback when they introduced this version of one of my favorite foods. This mac and cheese consisted of ziti type noodles with home canned tomatoes from the garden and mild cheddar cheese. I wasn’t so sure I was going to like this dish as I have never been fond of tomatoes but the well mannered girl my mother “tried” to raise me to be, knew I had to eat it, pretend I liked it and compliment the cook. Well I didn’t have to pretend I loved this strange version of mac and cheese, even the tomato part was good.
I have made this dish many times over since my visit to that Carolina farm where I also did what they call “getting up hay” for the first and last time in my life! Getting or putting up hay whichever way you want to say it isn’t fun, its hard work and I had a new found respect for farmers. For those of you who don’t know what getting up hay is, it’s when you go out to the fields and load all the hay bales onto the tractor. Let’s just say I worked up a pretty healthy appetite!
Carolina Mac -n- Cheese
1 box of ziti pasta or any tubular pasta similar to that
1 quart size jar of canned tomatoes, drain off the juice (preferably home canned but you can sub 2 store bought cans of stewed tomatoes)
1 brick mild cheddar cheese shredded
Preheat oven to 350.
Boil your pasta according to package directions, drain and place in a (greased or sprayed) 9x13 casserole dish. Make sure you drain off the juice of the tomatoes, if they are too large cut them smaller and stir into the pasta. Spread the shredded cheddar over the pasta and tomatoes. Bake for approx. 20 minutes, just long enough to get the tomatoes hot and melt the cheese; you don’t want the cheese to cook until it’s brown and hard.