My Grandma’s birthday is at the end of September. She passed away a few years ago but I tend to think about her and her life during this time of the year. Of course, I think about her often and miss her every day but there’s something about her birthday that causes me to ponder her life even more. It also makes me miss her even more. When I think about my Grandmother, though, I can’t help but to think about food. Oh, she was passionate about food! She enjoyed cooking and eating. If I went out somewhere, the first question she’d ask me when I got home was, “How was the food?” Or “Tell me about the food.” She also loved cooking for her family. I can remember so many cozy meals around her table. The food wasn’t fancy, since she didn’t have much money, but it was always made with love.
I didn’t think about it when I was younger but I’m realizing she had some unique recipes. “Poor man” recipes, is what I’d call them now. My Grandma grew up during the depression and I think that forever changed her perspective on money and material items. It also changed her eating habits. She never had much of an appetite for meat, again probably the result of growing up poor during the depression and not having much meat to eat. She loved pasta, potatoes and vegetables. She also cooked a lot with cabbage, probably because her mother was Polish.
So, I grew up eating things, like cabbage soup, that some might consider gross or weird. I didn’t know any better then. Her food always tasted delicious. And even today I still have cravings for her cabbage soup. I’ve modified her soup recipe but I still can’t quite duplicate the flavor.
One recipe I can duplicate is a recipe she called “pot cheese and macaroni.” It’s a funny name and I’m not sure why it’s called that. Several years ago I read or heard somewhere that cottage cheese used to be called pot cheese. It would make sense since cottage cheese is the main ingredient in this meal. I’m sure I probably already lost you at cottage cheese and pasta. I don’t blame you. All I can say is this is one of those meals that will take me right back to my Grandma’s kitchen. I smell it cooking and I’m suddenly tearing up (and not because of the onions!). It’s vapor-thin, but it feels like the closest I’ll be to my Grandma this side of heaven. This meal was our family’s comfort food. Again, it’s nothing fancy, but Grandma’s pot cheese and macaroni was gold to us. And everyone in our family still makes this meal when they’re feeling down or need some comfort. And sometimes we just cook it because we think it tastes really good! We used to eat it as a meal by itself but now I usually pair it with sautéed sausage and peppers.
Grandma Jean’s Pot Cheese and Macaroni
1 lb/package of shell pasta
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 stick of butter
1 16 oz. container of cottage cheese (not non-fat)
- Cook the pasta according to the directions.
- While you’re boiling the water for the noodles, sauté the onions in the butter. Cook them for at least 10-15 minutes on medium low heat, or maybe even longer. You want to get them very soft and sweet.
- When the pasta is cooked and the water is strained out, put the pasta back in the pot. Immediately add the cottage cheese and onion/butter mixture to the pasta pot. Stir until the cottage cheese is melted.
- Add salt and pepper to your preference.
- Serve and enjoy!
Do you have any family recipes? What are your comfort foods? I’d love to hear your stories (and recipes, if you’re willing to share)!