The Barbados Food and Rum Festival is an opportunity for the island’s chefs and bartenders to show off their skills to sun-seeking visitors from around the world, using local ingredients in inventive preparations with plenty of shimmering rum drinks to match. But what I kept going back for seconds of was the heaping slices of cheesy macaroni pie.
It’s a homey side dish you’ll see on several Caribbean islands—the type of “grandmother recipe you grow up eating and just know how to make,” says Marvin Applewhaite, a Barbadian chef and culinary ambassador tapped to rep the island’s food scene. Serve a hearty scoop of macaroni pie alongside beef stew, rice and peas, potato salad and a sweet coleslaw and you’ve got yourself a Sunday feast. “You’ll be full after that,” Marvin says.
Over a beachside lunch of smoked red snapper and rum-drenched bread pudding courtesy of Marvin and his fellow Barbados Food and Rum Festival headliner Trevon Stoute, the two chefs walked me through a few basics of Bajan home cooking, including how to make macaroni pie. The baked mac and cheese gets extra flavor—and color—from ketchup, mustard and a scotch bonnet pepper–based hot sauce.
Now when I recreate macaroni pie at home, I reach for the bottle of One Drop hot sauce Marvin and Trevon gave me to try (and which I am now devoted to). Our Test Kitchen tried out the recipe with Aunt May’s. If you don’t have a similar Caribbean-style sauce, you can substitute in your go-to hot sauce, but keep in mind that it’ll change the flavor a bit. Something like Tabasco will add a slight smokiness.
Macaroni Pie Recipe
This Barbados-style macaroni pie recipe from Marvin Applewhaite makes 32 servings, so it’s perfect for a potluck or party. Halve the recipe, using one 13×9-inch baking dish instead of two, if you want a smaller batch.
3 packages (16 ounces each) uncooked ziti pasta
8 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups whole milk
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 to 2 tablespoons Bajan hot pepper sauce
Step 1: Cook the pasta
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large stockpot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.
Step 2: Add the other ingredients
Combine the three shredded cheeses, setting aside four cups of cheese for the topping.
Over low heat, stir the cheeses and remaining ingredients (butter, milk, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, onion, garlic, thyme, ground pepper, salt and hot pepper sauce) into the pasta until everything is well combined and the cheese begins to melt.
Editor’s Tip: The dish should be a “yellowish-orangish” color, Marvin says. He recommends adding the mustard a little at a time, tasting as you go, because you don’t want it too mustardy.
Step 3: Bake
Transfer the mixture to two greased 13×9-inch baking dishes. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Bake the macaroni pie, uncovered, at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes, until it’s golden brown and the cheese is melted. Let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Tips for Making Macaroni Pie
Can you use other cheeses in macaroni pie?
This three-cheese macaroni pie recipe uses a combination of mature cheddar, Parmesan and smoked Gouda cheeses. If you’re staying true to the recipe, Marvin says to go for the sharpest cheddar you can find, like an extra-sharp Vermont cheddar. But if you don’t have any on hand, you can try it with a milder cheddar. You could also skip the smoked Gouda and increase the cheddar.
What do you serve with macaroni pie?
Serve macaroni pie on any occasion you’d bake up a batch of mac and cheese. Pair it with fried or grilled fish, baked chicken or a stew, or add it to your cookout spread alongside juicy burgers, barbecue chicken and a plate of pickles.
Macaroni pie is typically a side dish but nothing is stopping you from eating it as a main. Set it on the table with a green salad and a tangy coleslaw—and a bottle of hot pepper sauce couldn’t hurt.
Next Up: Learn how to make rum punch, two ways.