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Macaroni and Tomatoes Recipe

In this post I’m sharing how to make a classic Macaroni and Tomatoes Recipe.

Y’all, this is one of those old times dishes that has carried on and still loved by many. Some would even consider it a comfort food.

This macaroni tomato recipe began back in the depression era. Times were tough for families and stretching out meals was necessity. 

The macaroni and tomatoes would have been the main meal for many families or a side dish that could last for several days.

This is one of those very simple recipes and can certainly be customized to suit your own tastes with additional ingredients.

With as few as three ingredients, you’ve got yourself a tasty pasta side.

I’ve read stories of mothers and grandmothers who would make this and sometimes add onion, diced spam, or ground beef. Bellies were full no matter how simple the meal.

Classic Macaroni and Tomatoes Recipe

Bowl of classic macaroni with tomatoes surrounded by fresh garden tomatoes and a red ticking towel

There are a lot of possibilities with a can of tomatoes and frugal minded folks discovered them all. Including our beloved macaroni and cheese, which is a holiday staple these days.

Now I must go ahead and confess that I do one little extra thing to my macaroni and tomatoes recipe that most probably do not. That doesn’t mean that it’s not right. It’s just how I like it.

My motto happens to be, the right way to make a recipe is how you like it.

So before anyone yells at me for not doing it right (the way you do it), I like to add a little bit of a thickening slurry at the end to thicken up those tomato juices.

It really coats the pasta better, in my humble opinion. That is totally optional and you certainly do not have to do it.

Diced Tomatoes Side Dish

Stainless cooking pot with stewed tomatoes and cooked elbow macaroni pasta

One consensus among cooks is that this dish requires a little bit of bacon grease. I whole heartily agree!

The bacon grease add another layer of flavor and a bit of smokiness. I keep a jar of bacon grease in my refrigerator at all times. It is the star ingredient to many recipes.

Macaroni pasta and diced tomatoes combined in a silver pot

This one pot dish is really easy to make. With as few ingredients as the elbow macaroni, bacon grease, a can of diced tomatoes and some salt & pepper you’ve got the makings of a fine meal.

I add a pinch of sugar to enhance the flavors. Just a pinch does the trick. There is no need to go making a sweet pasta side dish.

Embellish the recipe further however you like. You’re the home chef at your house and you’ll be the one eating it after all.

Black and White Serving Bowl filled with a macaroni and tomatoes recipe

Below in the printable recipe card I’m sharing how I make this dish. I’m going through it step by step and giving you the list of ingredients you’ll need.

This tried and true humble dish turns out perfect every time.

Yield: 1 Pasta Side Dish

Macaroni and Tomatoes Recipe

Tried and True Macaroni and Tomatoes Recipe

Classic macaroni and tomatoes is the budget friendly dish that has been around for generations. Keep it simple as a side dish or jazz it up and make it a meal.

Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 8 oz Box of Elbow Macaroni (about 2 c, uncooked)
  • 1 tbs Bacon Grease
  • 28 oz Can of Petite Diced Tomatoes, with the juices
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp Sugar (optional)

Thickening Slurry

  • 2 tbs Cold Water
  • 1 tsp Cornstarch


  1. Cook the macaroni pasta according to box directions; drain well.
  2. While the pasta drains, return the pot to the stove (over medium heat); add bacon grease and melt then and canned diced tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the cooked macaroni to the tomato mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and pinch of sugar. Stir until heated through.
  4. Next, if using the thickening slurry; combine the cornstarch with cold water and add the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the juices are thickened (about 10 minutes).


This side dish can be kept simple or other ingredients such as diced onion, basil, garlic, ground beef or diced spam could be added to make it a meal.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

0.5 cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 95Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 108mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g
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I know that you’ll enjoy this delicious side as generations of families have. 

If you try it, please stop by and let me know how you enjoyed it. I love hearing from you.

You might also enjoy this recipe for Baked Tomato Mozzarella Melts from Southern Plate.

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Tuesday 21st of March 2023

I can't believe this is a real recipe! My mom made this for us growing up. I've always loved it and yes she did put in bacon grease. When I had my own family, I changed it up a bit. I would cook a couple pieces of bacon to get the grease, then remove the bacon, add a little bit of garlic, chop a couple of fresh tomatoes and just cook for about 2 minutes then pour it over the macaroni. My kids loved it like that growing up. So many good memories with this recipe either way...

Celey Geoffroy

Sunday 1st of May 2022

Love the recipe. My mom made it about every 2 weeks when I was growing up. I also save bacon grease. You forgot to put the oven temperature with your cooking time. I will try a 350* oven for the time you have given.

Julia Jordan

Monday 2nd of May 2022

Caley, This recipe is prepared on the stove top :)


Tuesday 26th of October 2021

My mother made this same thing but with whole canned tomatoes, then you break them up as you stir, and she also added some butter and lots of ground pepper. Delicious! My mother was raised on a farm and was born in 1933, so she knew home-cooking. I am sure her mother made this with home-canned tomatoes.


Saturday 23rd of October 2021

My grandma made a recipe like this. She added a squirt of ketchup to hers. When you get your serving on your plate, you always added butter to it to melt into it. Don't ask me why, but it always taste amazing. She would make it with home canned tomatoes. I use the diced ones with onions and garlic.


Friday 22nd of October 2021

Diced canned tomatoes did not exist until the mid 90's so can hardly be called a depression era recipe. If the cook making this dish used home made canned tomatoes or purchased whole or quartered tomatoes, it can then be referred to as a depression era recipe or after the war ration era recipe which it was in my family.

My mother would prepare this recipe with whatever she had in the pantry as you described, one being tomato soup or most of the time a jar of her canned tomatoes that she'd cut into small pieces before adding to the dish. I've always done the same especially when my children now in their 50's were small and money was sparse, but like my mother and grandmother always did, I used my own canned tomatoes from my garden or local farm or last resort, a tin of purchased whole canned tomatoes. I rarely if ever use diced canned tomatoes or petite canned tomatoes as they are treated to not break down like regular canned tomatoes do when making sauces for pasta and such.

Either way, whatever tomatoes one uses, a sprinkle or two of flavouring such as Oxo beef in the bottle ( the old days) or a flavouring that's more to your liking if you have any on hand, plus spices, meats or no meats that you might have on hand, that are added to the macaroni will either make or break the finished macaroni dish from tasting lovely or tasting bland.

On the rare times I make this dish now for my 9 grandchildren there will always be minced beef or other mince added unless the macaroni and tomatoes are served with a separate, albeit small meat serving on the side. Myself I prefer it with mince.

Cheers! Stay safe Stay well


Saturday 12th of March 2022

@Joycelyn, my grandmother made this frequently. I was introduced to this in the 1960’s. Her tomatoes were canned! She ‘canned’ them herself. This was a depression era recipe because of its affordability, which has evolved through the generations. But, if you want to make it with fresh tomatoes instead of ‘canned’, then go for it! By the way, preserving food in tin cans dates back to the 1800’s; maybe not diced, but it’s not relevant to this recipe since one can easily dice them.

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