This dish apparently comes to us from the Mohave Desert. I’ve been pronouncing the name of the recipe as “Moe have” ever since I first saw it — as in, “Moe, have some more macaroni casserole, please.”
(Apparently, the spelling “Mohave” is actually the preferred one for the indigenous ethnic group. However, I doubt that the people at A & P were aware of that terminological subtlety.)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Ann Page Elbow Macaroni
1 tbsp. fat
2 tsps. salt
Dash Ann Page Pepper
1/2 lb. ground beef of 1 cup ground leftover beef
2 onions, sliced
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 tsps. Ann Page Chili Powder Seasoning
1/2 cup grated American Cheese
1 tsp. Ann Page Paprika
Cook macaroni according to package directions. Add salt and pepper to meat, saute with onion in fat until lightly browned. Add tomatoes and chili seasoning. Top with grated cheese. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in hot oven, 400 F., for about 25 minutes. 5 servings.
We made this dish when we were actually in a bit of a hurry. It didn’t look like it would take very long, and indeed it didn’t. Sometimes Ann Page’s home economies were pretty well engineered.
We didn’t have any leftover beef that could be ground up, but we do have plenty of locally sourced ground chuck in our freezer. Whenever it goes on sale, we snap up five or ten pounds and slip it into conveniently sized freezer bags.
The recipe called for two onions. How big was a standard onion, back in the day when major American corporations could get away with the spelling “Mohave”? Since our kids are frequently not fond of onions in their food, we went conservative and used half a jumbo sweet onion. Frying thinly sliced sweet onions is kind of fun, really.
Then we had to boil the macaroni. We frequently use whole wheat pasta. I don’t know if Ann Page would approve. (When you think about it, the fictional Ann Page has a very white bread name, doesn’t she?)
Then came the question of what Ann Page’s chili seasoning would have been like. In modern recipes, I tend to use cayenne pepper, but I don’t think Ann would have wanted 2 teaspoons of that in her dish. (And now I’m wondering how much “chili p” went into that funny meth on Breaking Bad?) We settled on using taco seasoning, which isn’t quite the bland mixture of powdered mild chilis that A & P would have been hawking, but it ought to work.
Then came the usual drill of producing “grated” American cheese from prepackaged slices.
The meat and tomato mixture went into the final casserole dish, along with the macaroni.
The cheese and paprika went right on top, and then we popped it into the oven.
It came out looking more or less the same. The tomatoes and pasta looked drier, the cheese was melted, and the paprika had darkened a bit.
The cheesy crust held together when it was served, although the mixture underneath was not really cohesive. It tasted about like you might expect — a bit of southwestern spice, along with flavors of beef, macaroni, tomatoes, and cheese. It made a perfectly good dinner, and I’m sure Ann was right about it not being especially expensive (or time-consuming) to whip up.
Reactions were mixed. The oldest child was not pleased with this dish; it wasn’t clear why, but she just did not care for it. On the other hand, the six year old ate plenty, although he complained about the bits with paprika. The spice ended up very crisply roasted, which wasn’t the best way of presenting its flavor. It probably would have worked better if the paprika had been more mixed into the dish, rather than just sitting on top with the cheese.