Automat Mac & Cheese

I recently watched a delightful documentary called “The Automat” about the history of the Horn & Hardart restaurants in Philly and NYC. My dad, who grew up in Queens, remembers fondly the macaroni and cheese they used to serve. He sent me a recipe and I decided to try it out and serve it to him for lunch. He said it tasted just how he remembered – a slight sweetness, a little graininess, and ooey-gooey creaminess.

I took the recipe he sent me and tweaked it slightly. Here it is!

Horn & Hardart’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 4


  • 10 ounces pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained and chopped fine
  • a pinch of cayenne powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


Preheat the oven to 400F. Boil the macaroni in salted water until al dente – the pasta will cook more in the oven so you don’t want it to be overcooked. Drain and set aside until cheese sauce is made.

Combine the milk and cream in a large liquid measuring cup and microwave for 2-3 minutes until warm (you could also gently warm them in a saucepan on the stove).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, whisking for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Pour in the warmed milk and cream a little bit at a time, whisking on and off the heat so the sauce doesn’t burn. Whisk until thickened. Add the white pepper and a big pinch of salt. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the cheese, about 1/2 cup at a time, until melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the tomatoes, cayenne and sugar.

Place your macaroni in a buttered casserole dish and pour over the sauce. Mix the macaroni until the sauce is coating all the pasta. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is starting to brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.


One thought on “Automat Mac & Cheese”

  1. I love when you share your recipes. Thank you! 

    Sent from my iPhone


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