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Dunbar Macaroni

I am a huge Pat Conroy fan, especially liking the stories regarding the Low Country, and have read all of his books.

  As I said in my bio, I love to read cookbooks and this one I am going to tell you about is just as much a novel as a cookbook.  It is:  The Pat Conroy Cookbook, Recipes of My Life.

This cookbook is filled with marvelous tales about food, the South, living in Italy and fascinating people.  Pat Conroy can tell a story like no one else, particularly about the Low Country.  His description of the many cities he has resided in, his description of food and of people is incredible.  You sort of feel like he is the all-American guy who you just know if you ever got the chance to meet him, you would swear you’d known him all your life.  Even if you do not care for any of these things, you should this book only because he tells a good story! He is a master story-teller!

In the South, eating the feast after a funeral is compared to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  It is tradition there to cook for a grieving family and friends and to carry the dish to the deceased person’s home the evening before the funeral.  Pat’s “go-to” dish for this occurrence when in Beaufort, SC was Pickled Shrimp.  He says:  “When a friend dies, I take two pounds of shrimp for the mourners.  When a good friend dies, I go to five pounds.  When I die, I fully expect all the shrimp in Beaufort to be pickled that day.”  I imagine, there won’t be a shrimp to be found in Beaufort after his funeral!

Dunbar macaroni is the dish that always appears at funeral time in Newbury, South Carolina, to the delight of many people.  The history of Dunbar macaroni belongs to Newbury and Pat learned of it through the death of his friend.  This recipe belongs to Julia Randel, his friend’s grandmother.  Ground beef or pork is added to it sometimes, but Julia insists that Dunbar Macaroni was meatless in its original form.  It is a winner!

Dunbar Macaroni


1½ cups elbow macaroni
4 onions, chopped
2 (16-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, preferable San Marzano, mashed, without their juice
¾ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook macaroni.  Drain and set aside.
Cook the onions in 3 cups boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain.
Add the tomatoes and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, until liquid has evaporated.
Add the cooked macaroni, cheese, butter, salt and pepper.
Mix together and pour into a large greased casserole dish.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve hot.
Serves 8-10.

Now, cook up some Dunbar macaroni, relax, read some Pat Conroy and prepare for an adventure!


  1. I love Pat Conroy...and I love reading cookbooks, (maybe as much as you ) 2 great combinations. I'll have to check out the cookbook.

  2. Debbie, it's a great book, very interesting and I hope you read it! Thanks!

  3. Really this maccaroni are cooked for funeral???? Wow, they are too good for funeral time I think!!!

  4. I'm going to my nearby bookstore and see if I can this book. Sounds very interesting. Having a feast after a funeral is pretty unusual because most people don't have an appetite to eat before or after every funerals I attended.

  5. Hi Pam... just blog hopped into your blog.. you have a lovely space and wonderful pictures with yummy and authentic recipes.. will keep checking your space often.... following you..

  6. Zia Elle, you crack me up! Too funny! You just might be right!

  7. Xiao Yen Recipes: I can remember growing up in Ohio when dish after dish of food would flow to the home after a funeral. And it was the case in Louisville, KY but, not the case here in Cary, IL! You are right on spot about the appetite though!!! Thanks!

  8. RV, thank you so much for the compliment and your visit! You have a great day! Later...

  9. This looks like a most interesting book ! The recipe looks simple to prepare and delicious, too :)

  10. Can you believe I've never heard of this author. I think I have a zillion cook books so I can't believe I missed him! Thanks for the introduction. This mac looks way yummy!

  11. Lynda, thank you and it is interesting. I just love reading about the customs in different regions.

  12. Kathleen, to my knowledge this is the only cookbook he has written so it would be easy to miss. It is not filled with a whole lot of recipes but, he has interesting stories regarding most of them. Thanks!

  13. Always nice to have a cookbook with good story telling! Thanks for the introduction!

  14. 3 hungry tummies, you're welcome! Hope you check it out!

  15. Sounds like an entertaining book. My Mom never made mac & cheese when we were kids - as a result, it's not something I think of!

  16. Karen, it is an entertaining book! My Mom didn't make mac and cheese often but, when she did I loved it.

  17. Hello Pam, it's great to have new friends looking at our blog. I just became a follower of yours, this macaroni looks fabulous, such great texture and flavors.

  18. Pam, this is my kind of mac and cheese. I love the idea of throwing the tomatoes in with it. Thanks for the recipe...I know my daughter will LOVE it!

  19. I like this - so much better than the old mac and cheese....
    My mother a always made a 'dish' when someone died, too. (Small town Wisconsin)
    Thanks for the book tip!

  20. MaryVeth, welcome! It's always great to have a new friend! Thanks!

  21. A LA GRAHAM, I like it also. I've never had mac with tomatoes before.

  22. katiez, I like it much better also. And it really beats the macaroni and cheese in a box! My mom did also when we lived in Ohio and then in Louisville. It's funny in that it doesn't seem to be done here where we live now. Hope you try the book!

  23. This is a nice mac and cheese, good to try! I love reading and learnig about different foods and customs in different regions too. Thanks for sharing this one.

  24. This looks fabulous. I think I'd try it with my whole wheat pasta and it would still be good. I was thinking of making a batch of mac and cheese tomorrow, but I'm going with this. I am a big Pat Conroy fan and had a great visit to Beaufort a number of years ago. The town is a gem.

  25. I like Pat Conroy I did not know he had a cookbook.

  26. Lyndsey, yes. That is why I like this cookbook so much!

  27. Buttercup: I bet it would be delicious with your whole wheat pasta! Lucky you, I've been close to Beaufort many times but, sadly have never visited it. I'm sure it's pretty and an interesting southern city.

  28. Esme, I'm glad I introduced you to it since you are a Pat Conroy fan. You'll have to read it!

  29. Dear Pam:
    I am originally from Newberry, SC, the small Southern town Pat Conroy speaks of in his cookbook. Dunbar Macaroni is a staple recipe for those of raised in Newberry. Everyone adds a little twist to their own version when making Dunbar Macaroni. It is a wonderful warm, comfort food from home. In fact, I am making it today for dinner! No funeral to go to but a wonderful memory from home.
    Mary in NC

  30. I know this thread began some time ago. Today I am thinking about Pat Conroy after I heard the bad new. Will miss reading new stories from this guy. I have the delightful cookbook and am interested in preparing The Dunbar Mac and Cheese. Does it really mean 4 regular onions, chopped and boiled? I have never seen anything like this, but maybe that's whey it's such a fav.


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