That mac and cheese from the ’60s school lunchroom


So I just made this macaroni & cheese I used to make years ago when I was attempting to replicate the delicious mac & cheese the volunteer mothers used to make in our elementary school lunchroom, imagine.

Mac & cheese just wasn’t a dish my English mother had in her repertoire as she was were settling into Canadian life. Welsh rarebit, yes. Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, yes. M&C, uh, no. 

I stopped making it when my kids wanted Kraft Dinner® because it didn’t seem worth the time to make two kinds. I just gave it up rather than eat KD (I didn’t like that little envelope full of what looked to me like chemical cheese powder). 

This dish is so simple. You can have it on the table in about 22-27 mins. (10 mins to boil the pasta water; 5-7 mins to cook the penne; 5-10 mins in the oven) depending on how al dente you cook the pasta.  


You need one can of Campbell’s® Cheddar Cheese soup. Yes, I know: the salt content. Campbell’s® Cheddar Cheese soup is 39% “daily value” sodium!  

However in my recipe, you use one can with a whole package of penne which makes at least 4 servings, depending on serving size. So that works out to 10% or less (again depending on number of servings) fper serving for the soup part at least.  

I prefer penne to the elbow macaroni and I think it unfreezes and reheats better and doesn’t get too mooshy in the freezer. I also cook the pasta slightly al dente.

So, this is all you need: 

  • 1 pkg penne pasta  – I used a 900g package. 
  • 1 can Campbell’s(r) Cheddar Cheese soup (284 ml)
  • To your desire – grated cheddar cheese
  1. Put the water on to boil in a large saucepan. Grate the cheese while you’re waiting.
  2. Cook the pasta. Remember penne takes only about 5-7 mins. so put your timer on. (Always put pasta into boiling, salted water because, as my old Italian friend, Giovanni, insisted, “Pasta needs lots of water!”
  3. Drain the pasta when done, and put it in an oven-bake casserole.
  4. Pour on the can of soup and mix it through. 
  5. Dump in the cheddar cheese. Mix it through the pasta. Add another small layer of grated cheese on top to your comfort-food level.
  6. Bake it at 350°F. for 5 or 10 mins. until the top cheese has melted. I like it a little brown and bubbly, like the mums in the school lunchroom used to make it.

Plate (or, as I prefer, bowl) the hot servings from the casserole. When it’s cooled down,** divide the remainder up into your plastic freezer storage containers and freeze it.  

It’s not exactly the same as the mac & cheese those fantastic mother-volunteers made in our school lunchroom, but it’s close enough.


**Note:  It’s actually really important to let cooked food cool right down before you put it in the freezer.  Hot or warm food directly into the freezer can negatively alter the temperature in your freezer and affect your other stuff, so we learned in my FoodSafe® course. 

In restaurants, our teacher told us, they will often put a warm dish on a bed of ice for some time to cool it down (mindful of the “4 Hour Rule”) before they put it in the freezer.


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