With this, three ingredients are a must in my book – canned tomatoes, macaroni, and bacon grease. Canned tomatoes make it easy and perfect as a year-round dish. And I actually prefer the flavor of the canned variety in this one. Macaroni is obvious. And the bacon grease, while it can be replaced with butter, is required for me because it gives the dish it’s signature savory, smoky flavor.
Some folks add onions, some add green peppers, and some add cheese on top. I like it pretty simple and straightforward.
Which brings me to another ingredient… sugar. In all my time eating this dish, sugar is probably the most common other ingredient. And while I don’t care for it with the sugar myself, many folks say it helps to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. I happen to like that acidity, but if that’s not your thing you can certainly add some sugar to the mix.
I’d start by adding about 1 teaspoon of regular ol’ white sugar at the end with the salt and pepper and then add more to suit your tastes. In this case I think it’s just a matter of what you’re used to and if you’re used to this dish being sweet, then by golly you should add in some sugar.
Classic Macaroni and Tomatoes
- 2 cups uncooked macaroni
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- sugar (optional - see note)
- Cook the macaroni in salted water to al dente according to the package instructions then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In a large pot, melt the bacon grease and pour in the tomatoes with the juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally - about 10 minutes.
- Add the macaroni to the tomatoes and mix well. Add the salt and pepper. Mix well then adjust seasoning to taste. (See my note about sugar below.) Serve warm.
If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.
I grew up on macaroni and tomatoes, potatoes with bacon grease and eggs. We had a cookstove, and we toasted homemade bread on the cook top. bacon grease went on the toast with a lot of pepper
That sounds so good!
Old fashionedly delicious. I sauteed onion and garlic before adding the tomatoes. After adding the pasta I topped it with some grated cheddar cheese. Just yummy!
I didn’t have canned tomatoes and used rotel tomatoes, and added the sugar with the mix, was still good. Mother in law used to make this recipe. Was glad to find it.
It looks delicious, Nancy! Thanks for sharing a picture!
yummm is so good i also add about a cup or so of clamato juice with the can of tomatoes it also comes in unspicy and spicy for those that like alittle heat oh ya and minced up garlic just a little i love that stuff lol
Thanks for the tip, Neecee!
I’ve never made it with bacon grease so that’s probably what’s been missing all this time. Brings back so many memories of my grandma when I have this.
Hope you’ll enjoy this version!
Rate a20 on a 1-10
I made this today. The key ingredient is the bacon grease. Don’t leave it out. It was delicious.
I agree! Glad you enjoyed it!
This is almost just like my Nanny use to make and now me. The only difference is I saute my onions in the bacon grease before adding the tomatoes and macaroni. So good!
It’s so, so good!
This was a go to when I was growing up and money was tight. I was glad to read that at least one person mentioned cooking pasta in the tomatoes and juice, that’s how mom did it, and hers always had a little broth. We ate it with buttered bread and loved it. She never used bacon or bacon grease, but I like the bacon. Thanks for the recipe and the comments.
Everything you post is already tried and true and I have to give you 5 stars on all of your recipes. So many recipes are the same as my mother’s and it brings back memories of a happy childhood. This recipe in particular is one of those comfort foods I remember.
I love all your recipes because I know they are true Southern dishes that everyone will love. Thank you for sharing good food for us to share with our loved ones to make new memories for the next generation.
Thank you so much, Reba! I really appreciate those kind words!
This brought back fond memories of days past.
Thank you for the recipe.
Thank you Tony!
Delicious comfort food! I sautéed my onions til translucent in chipotle flavored olive oil and butter, added in the stewed tomatoes to warm through while macaroni cooked. So delicious. Thank You! I will definitely make again!
This sounds AMAZING!!!!!
My mother in law makes this with just tomatoes and macaroni. She serves it with evaporated milk which she pours into her bowl when she eats it. I make it also but I do spice mine up a bit. We use the milk at the end also. It seems to cut the acidity as sugar would.
Interesting! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of adding the milk. I’ll have to try it!
Just delicious! When I make a big batch I use a jar of tomatoes I canned, plus add a can Ro-tel. We like things a little spicy! I enjoy you!
Rotel is always a good idea!
Grew up with this only difference we used egg noodles! So good with a pinch of sugar!
Egg noodles would be great too!
Have loved this all my life. To add a touch of sweetness, I add some tomato ketchup.
Great tip! Thanks, Larry!
At 73, I had never used bacon grease in this recipe! WOW! I guess you can teach old dogs new treats. Love it!
LOL! So glad that I was able to pass on a great tip!
I am about to make this. I had remembered eating this as a child and really liking it – I was an extremely picky eater. I tried making it and did not like my version, so went online to look for a receipt. Finally, I found yours! Thank you so much for posting!
I love that this recipe brought back fond childhood memories for you!
I wish you would include nutritional information.
I actually don’t include nutritional info here’s why: https://southernbite.com/heres-why-i-dont-post-nutritional-information-with-my-recipes/
I grew up in the South and had never heard of this recipe until earlier this year. Well, I was dreaming about this recipe last night because it is so good. I’m making some today because it is absolutely delicious! I love it with a little sugar!
This recipe is the same as one I learned from my mom over 50 years ago, and am still making it. The only difference is I use lots of pepper. And now I use Becel vegan instead of butter or bacon grease 😊
That’s a wonderful alternative for bacon grease and butter!
That was delicious! I just added a few pieces of bacon.
That sounds like a Wonderful addition!
Robbin Ann Campbell
I’ve been eating this since I was a kid I’m from the south but my mom and I always put fresh basil in it. That’s the only thing I do different.
LOL, why do all southerners think every recipe is southern? It’s tired and old.
I’m not sure where this is coming from. I just looked through the post and don’t see where I claimed it as southern. In fact, I don’t even see the word southern in the actual post anywhere.
I vaguely remember this as a kid, my mom just used a dash of sugar to cut the acid. I made a double batch since my family loves anything pasta 😋 it came out great, I added some onion powder and a little garlic 😋
This is going to sound really dense. But, I had no idea other people are this on purpose. I love this dish but, I honestly thought it was something my mom came up with to get us through When we were doing good she’d serve it with fried pork chops.
That’s not dense at all! I think lots of families used this dish as a way to make ends meet, now it’s nostalgic as a result.
I wonder how a little bit of red wine vinegar would go with this? Kind of a tomato salad spin on the dish… any thoughts?
A little extra acid doesn’t seem like a bad thing.
I’m sorry that I left out the point of my reply, this macaroni & tomatoes dish was among my favorites in our school cafeteria…
It’s an old school favorite for sure!
Many people don’t have good memories of the food from their School cafeteria, I went to school in Laguna Beach, CA during the 40s & 50s, we had really good home-style cooking that was done by mothers of some of the students that actually attended school there, all of the food was prepared on-site from scratch!
This has always been a quick, standby meal in our family. Personally I like the juiciness of the tomatoes so I add additional tomato juice. I also home-can my tomatoes which make 5his the best.
No doubt! Home-canned have such a great flavor!
When I was growing up in southeast MO, we always had this for supper in the winter. We’d have it with fried potatoes and cornbread. Mama and Grandma made it by cooking lots of chopped onion in butter, then adding a quart of home canned tomatoes, and cooked macaroni. Then simmer it for a while so the macaroni absorbs the the tomato juice. Salt and pepper to taste. I love the stuff.
I have friends in Italy who grew up in poor mountain villages. I told them about macaroni and tomatoes. They laughed and said growing up that was how the poor ate their pasta. I said that it was poor folks food for us too and it is very good. They agreed, they loved it growing up too.
No you’ve got me hungry!
Just like mother used to make. She didn’t leave me any recipes and I keep looking for similar to hers. This was perfect.
So happy to hear that, Cheryl!
Had this many times when growing up. Mom was an excellent cook and could make an excellent meal out of ” nothing” as she would say. I am making it tonight with pork tenderloin. I add onion into the tomatoes also then put cheese on top and brown it.
Sounds great! I need to try it that way.
Been making this for years! My best friends Grandmother made it every Sunday for lunch and that is where I first had it. She made hers just like your directions. I sometimes fill adventurous and I add a tablespoon or 2 of dehydrated onion in mine. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!
You bet, Audrey! Enjoy!
We always walked down to the cornor grocery store charged to our account but we did elbow noodles,stewed tomatoes,lots of butter and lots of garlic..made it tonight
Such fun memories! Grocery stores that let you keep a tab were always so cool to me!
This is one of those recipes that I always used the home canned tomatoes for! The big difference though in how we make it is that we don’t pre-cook our macaroni. It’s cooked in the juice of the tomatoes, do it takes on more flavor. Now, I’m not sure that I put a whole 2 cups in because this was an old unwritten recipe that we just eyeballed! ???????????? We also usually fry a couple of sliced of bacon in the pot to start and just leave them in there throughout the cooking. In that bacon grease we throw in a good handful of finely diced onion. (It’s gotta have the onion!) And no sugar, ever!!!
Thank so much for sharing your method! Sounds great!
This is one of those recipes that I always used the home canned tomatoes for! The big difference though in how we make it is that we don’t pre-cook our macaroni. It’s cooked in the juice of the tomatoes, do it takes on more flavor. Now, I’m not sure that I put a whole 2 cups in because this was an old unwritten recipe that we just eyeballed! ???????????? We also usually fry a couple of sliced of bacon in the pot to start and just leave them in there throughout the cooking. And no sugar, ever!!!
Oh Stacey, so many memories come back with this recipe! I loved it as a kid, and still love it today. My mom had to stretch her dollars too, but we never felt poor when we could eat macaroni and tomatoes! These days I add a bit of cubed velveeta cheese to the mix. Gonna try it with the bacon grease now! Thanks so much for such a lovely posting. And I have loved reading everyone’s take on it too.
It’s always so fun to see the variations! I think I’ll need to try the Velveeta!
I have made for years , no sugar but a touch of chili powder or cayenne offsets sweetness of stewed tomatoes.
Sounds great! Thanks for sharing!
This was a childhood favorite! Brought back lots of memories, thanks for sharing!
My pleasure, Lynn!
I grew up with this dish and you are right one about the usual sugar added at the end. My mom didn’t like real sweet so she used the sugar lightly. While she cooked often with bacon grease, as I do also, she always used butted in this dish. She made this for me not long before she passed. What a great memory.
Thanks for sharing that sweet memory with us, Nan!
I still make this but I actually cook bacon cut up small with green pepper and onion and add to it, sometimes I add beef broth and make in to a soup.. delicious any way you want to make it … yummy
Sounds great! Thanks for sharing your version!
Very good…… we had it about once a week when I was growing up. Mom added a pound of ground beef so it was a meal in our house. Went a long way with 5 mouths to feed. Thank you for sharing.
Love the idea of turning into a meal! Thanks, Vickie!
Mom made what we called sweet & sour macaroni & tomatoes. For the sweet macaroni & tomatoes, she added cornstarch & sugar. Delicious! Maggie
Thanks for sharing, Maggie!
Any updates on your cookbook yet… are more available to buy? Thank-you!
None yet, but hopefully soon! I’m so sorry!
We always had this when I was growing up in eastern North Carolina. We used a large and small can of diced tomatoes and cooked the pasta in the tomatoes with the bacon grease. We use a whole box of pasta and we make bacon very crispy to sprinkle on top of it! We love it so much!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s so, so good!!!
My mom and grandma made a variation of this using elbow macaroni strewed tomatoes diced onions and velveta cheese put in a casserole topped it with browned pork chops they would pour the grease from the pork over the top and bake best meal ever
That sounds AMAZING!!!
I added a sweet onion and diced up the bacon used to produce the grease. Great flavor!
Sounds perfect! Glad you enjoyed it!
My parents go-to comfort food but my mom used canned stewed tomatoes and shell shaped macaroni. Add some Parmesan and voila! Yummy memories!
Love this. My Mom added onion and chopped up and added the bacon she fried to get the grease . Gives it great flavor.
Yum!! Sounds delish!
Make this with macaroni and cheese; cooked, add your diced, drained tomatoes and a can of drained tuna and bake in the oven at 350 degrees, covered.
That’s a great way to turn it into a complete meal!
This reminds me of when I was a child growing up. My mother prepared this often. I love it then and still do. Plan to make me some.
Hope you’ll enjoy it!
Before we had to give up pasta, this was a staple in our house. Always had to have it on snowy days.
Give up pasta?? I’d be so sad!!
I love this dish. We had it frequently when I was young. We used 16 oz of pasta though and a large can of diced tomatoes and a smaller can. It is so delicious. I still make it today. We just cook the tomatoes 15 minutes first and then cook the pasta in the tomatoes mixed with a can and a half of water. We cook it another 15 minutes and and make some very crisp bacon. We break up all the bacon and sprinkle it on top. It’s great.
Family comfort food for 4 generations in our family. And no bacon grease. Always butter.
Feb. 19, 2020. With the cupboards and fridge getting low on food I went on the internet to see what I could find for recipes with; Macaroni, Canned Diced Tomatoes and a Package of Bacon. I came across this site and this recipe. Just what I needed. I cooked the bacon in the microwave and put the macaroni and canned tomatoes in a pot. I added salt, pepper, a dash of Cayenne Pepper, a couple tblsp of onion salt and gave it a stir. I cooked the bacon until it was crispy and cut it into smaller pieces and added it to the pot. I brought it up to boiling and then reduced the heat and simmered until about half of the liquid had boiled away. It passed my taste test and my wife’s. Yummy. I toasted a couple of burger buns and put chunk of that on top when dished up with some Parmason cheese sprinkled on top. It was delicious. I found a definition years ago to describe my cooking; I’m a Fusion cook. I don’t follow recipes most of the time and when I do I modify them a bit to suit my own taste preferences and of course my wife’s. Thank you for helping me cook supper with only a few ingredients. Appreciate these simple recipes that don’t require expensive ingredients. Very important when living on a fixed income. Old Age Pension for me and a Disability Pension for my wife. Just a note: We live in Nova Scotia, Canada where the snow is beautiful this time of year. I don’t have to shovel it anymore living in a seniors complex so I can appreciate the beauty of it.
So glad that you enjoyed this super simple, but filling meal, Byron! Happy to hear I could help. I’m sure not having to shovel all that snow makes it even more beautiful!
I love the recipe and used it as a side dish not a main dish. I have copied down the variations of this dish. Going to try the one with the white curd tonight. The best think about this dish is that it has always gone over well at potlucks. Thanks for sharing.
So glad you enjoyed it, Susan!!
Add cucumbers awesome
We have always made this casserole but we also put a white sauce in it to thicken it some and gives great flavor. I also put meatballs on top and I bake it. So yummy.
I love this as a child!! My mom used macaroni and tomato soup…probably because my dad didn’t like tomatoes but loved tomato soup! Then as an adult, a friend made it with canned tomatoes, and I loved it!
Very interesting! Sounds great!
Oh my gosh!! Just made this the other night although my reciepe is a tad differant. My mother got it from my stepfather’s mother Virgina Knight, in Upstate NY, and boy could she cook!! My mother continued to make it and then myself and now in their 30s, my kids love to make it too. My reciepe is called Baked Macaroni and Cheese. We use elbow macaroni (about 5 cups), stewed tomatoes(2 cans, cut up or crushed with hands)and white curd cheese, about to to three bags cut into small to medium pieces, little salt(not much needed because of the cheese) and some pepper, baked in my roasting pan(cover off at 350 for about 30- 40 min. so it gets a little crisp around the edges and served with meat loaf and corn!
Oh Kelly, that sounds so good…and so easy! Does the macaroni go in “raw” (uncooked)?
Hi What is white curd cheese…like cheese curds or fresh mozzarella?
I cannot find a can of tomatoes that is 2 ounces. Would you mind sharing what brand you find the 20-oz size can in?
It should be a 28-ounce can of tomatoes.
Simply must add onion, saute in bacon grease before ya add tomatoes.
Onions are a delicious addition!
I grew up eating this, although I use butter, “my grandmother used bacon grease”, I love this. I always leave some juice on mine. I always make a skillet of corn bread, to go along with it. Good eating on a cold winter’s night.
Cornbread is perfect with this!
My Grand Mother use to make this dish on Saturday nights and serve it with pan fried sirloin steak and she also added a of clove or two of garlic to the tomatoes. I still make it this way and will add some bacon grease for the hell of it. Can’t beat it!!!!
I couldn’t agree more! Sound delicious!
I make this all the time with sliced mushrooms and soy sauce. Lots of black pepper is a must!
That sounds great!
I still make this often, without bacon or sugar. Just home canned tomatoes and elbow macaroni. Sometimes we’d top with some kind of cheese. In fact, this dish is probably why I had my mother teach me how to can tomatoes, which I do every summer.
It is SO good with those home canned tomatoes!
Jane L Barber
Good stuff, we never added bacon grease but will try, we use to call this, when we can’t came up with what we wanted to eat, and we fried potatoes and put macaroni and tomatoes over them ,
That sounds amazing!!
I love this recipe! Mama made this when I was a child and it was and still is one of my favorite meals. Thinking back now, I know it was something inexpensive and would go far, but to me, kings couldn’t eat better. Sometimes Mama steamed hotdogs on top of the macaroni or added some leftover hotdogs to the pot. She is now 89 and just the other night, we were talking about when she used to make it. I can’t wait to show her this recipe. And yes, she always added white sugar and some margarine or butter to the mix. Thank you for sharing.
I sure hope you’ll enjoy it, Patricia!
I will definitely make this. But I am gonna cook some bacon to crumble up and mix in after its done cooking! Definitely a budget stretcher meal
Sounds great! Enjoy!!
My mother-in-law added a pound of hamburger and more macaroni to make this dish feed a family of six on not very much money. Her four children have now all raised their kids on it. Once, when we were short on regular 15 oz canned tomatoes, we used one can labeled “with lime and cilantro”. It contained a few green chilis, not obvious on the label, but they gave it a wonderful mild zing! We make it that way all the time now. As is evident by the comments, this is a true comfort food, both by it’s taste and the memories it evokes. Thanks!
Love hearing these stories! Thanks for sharing, Susan!
My mom made this also! Love it! Also, added ground hamburger meat or pork sausage! My husband does not like it so, I make for myself! My mom made what we called breaded tomatoes, canned tomatoes with sliced bread torn in pieces and heat, maybe add salt, pepper and a tiny bit of sugar!
I’ve heard several folks mention the bread and tomatoes. Love the idea of the pork sausage, too!
Your description of “breaded tomatoes” is what my Grandma and Mama made and served on top of black-eyed peas… eaten anytime but especially for New Year’s Day. They made Stacey’s mac & tomato recipe, too, and I make them sometimes just to enjoy something that reminds me of them and their love to cook something they knew I loved to eat. Love on a plate all around!
I truly thought this was my grandmother’s creation. That woman could make something out of nothing. Here biscuits were amazing. Fried bread. But I loved her macaroni and tomatoes. We ate them a lot as lunch. Lots of salt and tons of black pepper.
I’m sure she was an amazing lady!
Ha,ha! I too thought this was my mother’s creation. Loved it when I was a kid. Still make it from time to time. Like today, I’m craving it and will make it using my home grown tomatoes.
Hope it turns out great for you!
I grew up in Indiana with three brothers and my mother used to make a similar dish but it was just macaroni and tomato sauce and lots of butter, salt and pepper . When my children came along I continue to make the same recipe as my mother. My sons, now both grown, still to this day will ask when they come home “mom will you make me some macaroni and tomato sauce”. This is a little twist to my mother’s recipe but I am going to try it. I do wish that my mother were still here so that I could share this recipe with her. I wonder what she would think about adding the tomatoes and the bacon grease. Looking forward to trying it.
I sure hope you’ll enjoy it!
I remember eating this at my grandmothers and at my mom’s also. It was a wonderful dish and very filling. We lived in the plains of Texas and the grocery store was a long ways into town. They both had huge gardens and canned all kinds of stuff that we ate through out the year.
Thanks for the memories!
I do love it with those home canned tomatoes!
One of our families’ favorites of our Granny Mac. She sauteed a little finely chopped onion with half butter and half bacon grease. Yum! Thank you so much for the reminder of my wonderful Granny!
I’m so fortunate to be able to share these recipes and bring these memories back!
When I was a kid, my Grandmother used to make this, no bacon, and she used sugar!! I use stewed tomatoes, next time I make this will be trying bacon!!
I love the flavor that the bacon grease gives it!
Thank you Stacey for the inspiring recipe! I used it as the start for my own variation pasted below… it was really good. I look forward to trying your other recipes. – Lawyer Smith
BUSY MOMS AND MR MOMS CAN THANK ME LATER for my personal spin on “tomato macaroni”… takes 15-20 minutes and serves 4-5 people. I call it Pineapple Salsa Macaroni. This was so simple and yet the flavors came together perfectly, a terrific and easy dinner. The idea came to me as I was (a) hungry for macaroni and tomatoes, and (b) trying to use some leftovers including part of a jar of salsa we opened last night with tacos.
Ingredients: 3 dry cups elbow macaroni, 1/3 diced onion, 2 small garlic cloves diced, 1 can whole peeled tomatoes (drained and then gently crushed when you add to the pan while cooking), 1 can diced tomatoes (drained), 1 can artichoke hearts (drained and cut into smaller pieces), 1 polska sausage (cut into bite size pieces), 1/2 small jar of pineapple salsa from Aldi’s, fresh grated gourmet cheese (we used 1/4 cup Vermont white cheddar), 2T bacon grease.
Cook the elbow macaroni as usual, drain and set aside. In large, deep nonstick skillet, heat bacon grease over med-high and then add the onions and garlic until translucent. Then add the sausage pieces to brown. Then stir in all other ingredients except the grated cheese. Stir occasionally as the ingredients heat. Serve and top with the grated cheese. Good with iced tea and saltines. Also would be good with red wine and hot bread and butter.
Substitute or add ingredients as you wish (smoked chicken instead of sausage?) BUT DON’T SKIP THE TOMATOES, ARTICHOKES, AND PINEAPPLE SALSA. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your variation!
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! Such fond memories of my mother making this and everyone loved it! She had an incredible talent for making a delicious, filling meal out of nothing. ???? We were very poor but honestly didn’t realize it until many years later. She had a huge garden, did lots of canning and we always had wonderful meals!
My background is very similar and I too didn’t realize how much we did without until later in life. Like you, it never felt like we were at any disadvantage. I think it’s all in how were were raised.
This was one of my favorite side dishes growing up in the Midwest!!!! Thanks for sharing this!!!!!!
This dish is very good and filling no matter what you may like to add. My Mom always added some shredded cheese on top and put it into the oven until the cheese was melted and the dish was bubbly. We had this many a night when there wasn’t much food left in the pantry or freezer until payday. She only add a little sugar to take the tartness out of the tomatoes if they needed it. Our Moms could really stretch a dollar and always had something hot and filling on the table for us to eat, didn’t they. We never went hungry and we didn’t realize how poor we were. I still fix this dish and the family always wants it during the holidays.
Thanks, Stacey for sharing this recipe.
Claudine in Fort Worth, TX
I love how recipes like this remind us of all those things!
I would say before cooking
2 cups macaroni measured before cooking or after?
Measure before cooking. Enjoy!
Hi there, my mom made this and was my first time having it, I just love it. She would mix breadcrumbs, melted butter and cheddar cheese and she put that on top. This made it even better and she never used bacon grease.