These are the casseroles of our lives: Tuna. Sweet potato. Green bean. And if you’re from the South: Pineapple casserole.
It sounds somewhat strange to a lifelong Northerner raised on savory church-basement hot dishes, but this is a familiar side at the holiday table for our Southern friends. And like a lot of Southern food, its entire purpose is to be maximally delicious.
The main idea behind a pineapple casserole is the tantalizing mix of sweet and salty. While, say, a sea-salted caramel uses the salt to amplify the sweetness, this dish deepens its cheesy goodness with a tangy kick of fruit.
Over at Small Town Woman, blogger Elizabeth Pierce shared her recipe for this classic dish. Though it’s often served for special occasions, it’s simple enough to whip up for a weeknight feast, as well.
Naturally, the first ingredient is pineapple. Pierce uses two types of canned pineapple for her version. Be sure to drain the pineapple before using it to avoid a soggy situation. (Pierce saves the juice as a little treat for her son.)
Pierce also notes that canned pineapple really is the preferred choice. Pineapple gets softened in the canning process, whereas fresh pineapple stays too tough for this dish.
Pineapple pieces drained, it’s time to get mixing. First, whisk together flour and sugar in a bowl. Pierce’s recipe calls for a half-cup of sugar, but other recipes use a little less at 1/3 cup.
It’s a matter of personal taste, of course. Pierce also uses double the amount of cheese, so a little more sugar is probably warranted.
Next, mix in the drained pineapple and shredded cheeses. That’s right, cheeses — Pierce suggests using equal amounts of sharp cheddar and mouthwatering white cheddar.
This is also the point at which you could gussy up your pineapple casserole with some unconventional ingredients. Pierce suggests a textural surprise like roasted pecans or walnuts, or a sweetness-booster like shredded coconut or maraschino cherries.
Once you’ve got your extras added (or not), pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish. The finishing touch is the crunchy topping: crushed Ritz crackers delicately coated in melted butter. Spread the topping evenly over the contents of the casserole dish.
The casserole is assembled! Bake it in the oven at 350 degrees F using her instructions. You’ll know the dish is done when the cracker topping is an appetizing golden-brown and the cheeses are bubbling-hot. The whole dish from start to finish should take you under an hour.
Serve the casserole right away. If you have leftovers, they’ll keep in the fridge for four days and can be reheated in the microwave or the oven. (On that note, the casserole can be prepared in advance of an event. Just bring the stored dish up to room temp, add the buttery cracker topping and proceed as usual.)
It’s up to you whether to serve pineapple casserole as a side dish to a larger meal — Pierce suggests ham or pork ribs — or perhaps even as a unique dessert. Either way, it’ll start a conversation!
Click here to get Pierce’s full recipe at Small Town Woman.
This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for additional stories.