The sights and smells of Italy will be forever linked with pasta in my mind after a trip to the region several years ago. My mind often travels back to good memories of scenic beauty, glasses of wine and pasta with nearly every meal.

The Italians are as proud of their cuisine as we Louisianans are, and rightly so. Closer to home, it’s interesting to note the varieties of pasta in different grocery or specialty food stores. Experiment.

While Americans are great consumers of macaroni and cheese, the dish can be changed to include different pasta and cheeses. Try a topping of Ro-tel tomatoes and Italian bread crumbs to spice it up a bit.

Ziti caught my attention for this recipe. The topping is added in the last hour of cooking. Serve it with any number of entrees from hamburgers to ham, just as you would a traditional macaroni and cheese.

It’s also a great addition to a Mother’s Day dinner, whatever it may be. Happy Mother’s Day.

Julie Kay is a columnist for The Advocate. She can be reached at