A staple side-order and beloved dish, often eaten alongside coveted Bahamian favorites including cracked conch. Though this cheesy delicacy comes in many different forms across the globe here in The Bahamas it is baked, Similar to a casserole, the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and baked in a greased baking pan until the top is crispy and golden.
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"A crispy golden top, a cheesy center and an aroma better than your best scented candle."
Baked Macaroni 101
Pasta: Though baked macaroni or "mac and cheese" is commonly prepared using elbow noodles, in the Bahamas it is often made using "ready cut macaroni" — though brands often vary. The pasta resembles that of ziti or rigatoni.
Cheese: Whether you decide to be fancy with four cheese or traditional with one, the most important inclusion is cheddar cheese — preferably blocked. Pre-grated or shredded cheeses contain preservatives like potato starch , meant to keep the shreds from clumping together in the bag. That also means they don't melt together as well when cooking.
Herbs & Aromatics: To any Caribbean dish, the addition of finely diced onions, bell peppers and a bit of heat is essential. Though the inclusion of thyme, garlic or maybe even seasoned salt is completely up to you.
How to Make:
Bahamian Baked Macaroni
Yield: 9 x 9 baking pan
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
1 lb ready cut macaroni
1 1/2 blocks of cheddar cheese (about 5 cups)
11 oz evaporated milk (1 1/3 cups)
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 yellow onion minced
1/2 green bell pepper minced
1 habanero pepper (add less if you prefer less heat)
4 sprigs of thyme
2 tsp seasoned salt or Cajun seasoning
Preheat oven to 375º.
Begin by bringing a large pot of water (about 2/3 filled) to a rolling boil. Salt water generously.
To boiling water add macaroni. Stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking — cook until tender.
As pasta cooks, begin to grate cheese and mince onion, bell pepper and habanero pepper.
Strain excess water from pasta and return to pot.
To cooked macaroni, add 3/4 of grated cheese and evaporated milk. Stir constantly as cheese begins to melt.
Add eggs (one at a time), minced vegetables, thyme leaves (removed from sprigs) and seasoning. (the mixture will be quite loose but that's expected)
To a greased 9x9 baking pan or Pyrex dish, spread mixture even and evenly top with the remainder of the cheese.
Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
Once baked, cool for about 15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!
JUST A FEW TIPS:
Cajun seasoning and seasoned salt do add another layer of flavor. However is you prefer simple table salt, that is completely fine. Add to taste.
This recipe is specifically calculated for a 9x9 baking pan. Nonetheless, if you are preparing a 13x9 —pan simply double the recipe.
Personally, I prefer a really cheesy baked macaroni. If that is not your preference, simply decrease the amount of cheese.