If you’re from Barbados, you know that macaroni pie is a staple on most dinner tables, particularly on Sundays and on holidays. It’s that one thing most Bajans born in the 80’s and beyond can’t seem to get enough of.
Truth is, perfecting my Bajan macaroni pie recipe has taken me years but finally, I think I’ve got it.
In this post, I’m sharing the mistakes I made along the way so you don’t have to, as well as tips for making this yummy-in-your-tummy Barbadian dish.
1. Using the wrong pasta
While Bajans call it “macaroni pie,” it isn’t always made with macaroni. Some Bajans use a type of bucatini or perciatelli (long, hollow tubes), broken into bits. Others use elbow macaroni, which I prefer. These two tend to work better than other pastas such a penne or ziti, which I’ve found need way more moisture for a good bake.
2. Overcooking or undercooking your pasta
Getting your pasta to be just the right texture can be tough. Ideally, go for an al dente finish—not too soft but firm to the bite. The best way to achieve this is to keep an eye on the pasta as it boils, tasting it along the way. And, most of all, never cook your pasta in a covered saucepan—never.
3. Using only one kind of cheese
In Barbados, the most popular option for macaroni pie is New Zealand cheddar. Yet, there’s so much more flavor and melted, gooey goodness to be had from adding other cheeses like mozzarella. I also like throwing in parmesan and a sharper or milder cheddar to keep the flavor interesting.
One more thing on cheese—no cheese browns quite like mozzarella, so try this variety for a beautiful golden top.
4. Not getting the flavor right
I once went through a phase where I dumped ketchup into my macaroni pies when I couldn’t figure out how to get the flavor right. No bueno. I think I have finally found a combination that works especially well: onion, garlic, adobo / seasoning salt and yellow mustard. For a little more kick, Bajan hot sauce or freshly ground black pepper are my go-to’s.
5. Making the pie too moist or too dry
Ever baked a pie that fell apart the second you sliced it? Or maybe one that was hard and dry and bulky? Achieving the right level of moisture is a delicate dance. It’s mostly a matter of ingredients and temperature. For a dreamy, moist finish, try cooking cream or a milk-and-butter mixture. To keep things firm, add baking flour or breadcrumbs. A personal favorite is Progresso Italian Style Breadcrumbs.
And, most of all, bake at a temperature between 350 and 400 deg F for about 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Being too anxious to eat it
It’s easy to get all excited about your perfectly baked pie, and want to dig in immediately. Hold up! After you bake it, let it sit for a while. Five to 10 minutes of cooling time lets the cheesy flavors settle in beautifully and makes for a more precise slice.
7. Eating too much of it!
It’s no secret, macaroni pie can cause bad cholesterol levels to spike. And it’s also packed with carbs. Instead of baking in a dish, I use a muffin pan. This method helps a great deal with portion control and is more convenient to store in the refrigerator, than a traditional backing dish.