Macaroni and tomatoes is an inexpensive recipe that was popular in simpler times, yet is still enjoyed by many.
I love this recipe, not only because I am a sucker for reviving old-fashioned recipes, but also because of how flexible it is. The only rules to this simple dish are tomatoes and macaroni noodles need to be used, beyond that the home chef can get creative with how they want to dress up this recipe with whatever pantry staples they have on hand.
What is it?
As the name implies, the primary ingredients in this easy recipe are macaroni and tomatoes. This humble meal was particularly popular in households where money was tight. Tomatoes and pasta were inexpensive, and when thrown together with a little bacon fat, a cheap and easy meal can be served.
This simple meal was most commonly known as a classic southern dish but it was also a popular staple in poor households throughout the Midwest as well. Bacon was often used as an ingredient because it was cheaper than most meat, and packs a lot of flavor. However, in households like my grandma's, hot dogs were commonly added instead because they were even cheaper.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Elbow macaroni noodles - Other small pasta noodles can also be used, but macaroni is best as it is the namesake of this recipe.
- Bacon - Bacon is fairly essential, as we also need the rendered bacon grease from frying. However, ground beef is also used in this recipe occasionally.
- Yellow onion - Chopped onion was a popular low-cost addition to this recipe in many households, but it can also be omitted.
- Canned Petite Diced Tomatoes - I like petite diced best, but regular diced tomatoes are also great. You want canned tomatoes rather than fresh tomatoes because the juices are important to use as well. In a pinch, stewed tomatoes can also be used, but they should be cut down into smaller pieces.
- White sugar - If you want to sweeten the dish up feel free to add a pinch of sugar, but it won't be missed if excluded either.
How to make it
Begin making this old fashioned macaroni and tomatoes recipe by boiling the macaroni noodles in a large pot of salted water on the stove top until al dente. When the noodles are tender, drain from the water and set aside.
Tip: Toss the noodles in a little cooking oil to prevent them from sticking after they finish cooking.
In a separate large frying pan, add your bacon and cook it over medium high heat until crisp. Crumble the bacon once it is cool enough to handle. Reserve one tablespoon of bacon grease in the skillet and add the chopped onion. Saute the onions over medium heat until tender.
Once the onions are tender, pour in the diced tomatoes and the tomato juice from the can. Add sugar, salt, and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the cooked pasta and crumbled bacon. Toss everything together and serve when everything is warmed through.
Recipe tips and tricks
This is a great recipe to customize with your favorite flavors. If you want inspiration, try any of these ideas:
- Italian seasoning - Add your favorite fresh herbs or dried Italian seasoning for a quick boost of flavor.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes - Substitute fire-roasted tomatoes, which pair perfectly with bacon in my Roasted Tomato Soup.
- Bell peppers - Green peppers, or sweeter red & yellow peppers can be added with the onion.
- Parmesan cheese - Topping your macaroni and tomatoes with grated cheese is an easy way to add extra flavor when serving this meal. I think Parmesan is best, but even shredded cheddar cheese can be used.
- Tomato sauce - If you want a thicker sauce, you can add 8 ounces of tomato sauce when the dice tomatoes are added.
Leftovers macaroni and tomatoes should be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed within five days. This can easily be reheated in the microwave in individual servings. Please note, the noodles will likely absorb any excess liquid in the sauce as it refrigerates and the bacon will also soften.
Can you do me a favor? If you enjoyed my post would you mind sharing it with your friends? You can see more of my recipes by liking me on Facebook and follow me on Pinterest too. Otherwise, stay up to date by getting each new post sent directly to your inbox by subscribing today.
Macaroni and Tomatoes
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 8 ounces bacon
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease reserved from cooking bacon
- ½ onion chopped
- 28 ounces canned Petite Diced Tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon sugar optional
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni noodles according to package instructions until al dente.
- While noodles cook, add raw bacon to a large skillet and fry until crisp. Remove cooked bacon and crumble once cool enough to handle.
- Drain excess bacon grease from the skillet, leaving one tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet. Add chopped onion and saute until tender over medium heat.
- Once onions are tender add canned tomatoes with the juices, as well as sugar (optional), black pepper, and salt to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook out the liquid, stirring as needed.
- When noodles are tender, drain from the water and add the cooked noodles to your tomato mixture along with crumbled bacon. Toss everything to combine and serve.