Posted by: Erica Retrochef | April 7, 2014

Macaroni Mohave

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.)


Macaroni Mohave

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.

bluwmongoose on Flickr


  1. “…sprinkle with paprika,” to give it that gritty, sandy, desert-like taste? Or, to give it the reddish color of desert sands? Definitely sounds like this one would have worked better with the spices mixed in… like, on the beef perhaps.

    • Toasted paprika can actually be nice. It mellows and softens the spice, which has occasional usefulness. However, the paprika in this dish was too overdone—dry to the point of tasting a bit burnt.

  2. Shredded American cheese for EVERYONE!!!!

    • It’s sad that I’ve gotten so skilled at producing “grated” cheese this way.

  3. Tried a vintage recipe just called “More” recently. I’ll have a post up soon, but it was actually a lot like this. Instead of elbow pasta, it called for just regular spaghetti though, and there was no cooking of the onion – just onion – and corn – right on top. It tasted ok, but I desperately wanted to mix everything together more thoroughly rather than just leaving the poor pasta down at the bottom by itself.

  4. In this weeks “WHAT IF” category for me.

    What if added some green pepper to this?

    It would become a dish I grew up eating, called ‘American Chop Suey’. But on that, cheese was optional. Sometimes we got it ‘cheesed’, sometimes didn’t.

    It wasn’t until years later, when I had kids to cook for, and I started making minor time / money-saving changes, that I realized WHY this dish was different from time to time.

    Thanks, once again, for the memories.

    • I think that as this was being made, we were also speculating about adding green peppers to it. Bell peppers probably would have improved it a bit, but they weren’t going to make it spectacular.

  5. My family makes this, but with a few differences. We use stewed tomatoes, chopped up or mashed a bit, only one onion, and we cube up some Velveeta and melt it with everything and simmer in a large skillet, then serve. No baking necessary, so it saves time! We also don’t use the paprika. I wouldn’t substitute anything else. Whole wheat pasta isn’t quite the same and taco seasoning is probably not the best substitute for chili powder. Stewed tomatoes have peppers, onions, and usually some celery, which adds a nice flavor and makes all the difference in the recipe. My kids all have loved this recipe!! Very kid friendly this way!! Just thought I would share our family tweaks!! Enjoy!!

    • It’s always fun to see how others adapt recipes to meet their own preferences, thank you 🙂

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