Traditions are so important. They ground us, they bring comfort during turbulent times, they give us a sense of who we are and that we belong. I would like to share something special that happened during our son Josh and his beautiful wife Naomi’s visit this past week. I wanted to do something special with Naomi that honored our family’s traditions and also pass one down to her. I reached out to my sister Janet to make sure I got the recipe right (Yes, Sis – I used Panko!) and bought the ingredients for making the macaroni and cheese that my mom used to make. She didn’t make it very often and so we were all very excited when she did. I remember the unique bread crumb crust on the top that everybody loved.
So this week Naomi and I made Mom’s macaroni and cheese together. It was a very special time as we chatted and together decided how much of what to put in it, since we didn’t use any measuring cups. Naomi’s grandmother had also shared a macaroni and cheese recipe for her to treasure. Naomi now has a recipe from my Mom that she may not follow exactly, but is something for her to build off of (along with her grandma’s recipe) that will carry a part of both of our families into the new family that she and Josh are creating together – and that is really cool!
I thank God for the gift of my daughter-in-love Naomi and I’m so blessed by the times that we get to spend together.
If you don’t have a family tradition to pass down, that’s okay because you can start creating your own right now. And it doesn’t even have to be family that you pass it to. The important thing about tradition is the love behind it and that each of us can create our own as an expression of that love and give it to anyone. It’s also good to remember that blessings are meant to flow in both directions. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the German Pancakes Naomi makes for us whenever we get together for an extended visit – Yum!!
Leah Venetucci’s Mac N Cheese
16 oz. large elbow macaroni
Approximately 1 cup of milk
Kraft Deluxe American Cheese (12 Slices)
Breadcrumbs (You can use plain or Panko)
9 X 12 Glass Baking Pan
Lots of love
Cook the elbow macaroni as you normally would – boiling – straining – and adding a dollop of olive oil to prevent the macaroni from sticking together. Now would be a good time to start preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
Place pats of butter on the bottom of the baking pan. You can also mix some butter in with the macaroni, although we settled for just the olive oil we had already added earlier. Layer half of macaroni into pan. Pour approximately half a cup of milk over macaroni. Layer cheese slices on top of macaroni. (For a richer recipe you can add additional pats of butter on the cheese – being a bit health conscious, we chose not to do that this time and really didn’t miss it).
Repeat with another layer of macaroni and add some more milk (this is now individual preference as to how you like the final texture to turn out – more milky or less milky…) and layer cheeses slices on top of macaroni.
Now the fun part – shake the container of breadcrumbs so that they cover the top layer of cheese. You can experiment with how thick a layer you like, but it doesn’t take much to achieve the desired affect of a crispy, tasty top.
Bake for about 30 minutes (on top rack is fine) until golden brown. Timing is not critical but if you see the macaroni is getting crisp and you don’t want to overcook it – you can also broil it for a few minutes (less than 5) to achieve the color of the crust you see in the pictures. If you choose to do this, the top will cook very quickly, so you will want to monitor it closely.
It is now ready to enjoy and of course refrigerate leftovers promptly. We also have a family tradition of praying over our meals and we often end our prayer in a beautiful way – “Please bless this food and the hands that prepared it.” I think we’ll start including, “and thank you for the tradition of love behind it.” Seems like a good idea, don’t you think?