Mac and Cheese, or the shortened form Mac n Cheese, is a popular and well-known recipe from the USA. But does the Mac and Cheese recipe truly originate from the USA? This is the question we aim to explore in this article. Along with a brief look into its history, we present to you a delicious American-style Mac and Cheese recipe that you absolutely must try. To wrap up, we've also compiled some interesting – albeit occasionally quirky – facts for you.
Where Does Mac and Cheese Come From – A Glimpse into the Past
The origin of the Mac and Cheese dish – as it might not be surprising – lies in (Southern) Italy. In an Italian cookbook called "Liber de Coquina," which is among the oldest cookbooks from the Middle Ages, there is mention of a pasta dish with cheese dating back to the 14th century. The recipe, written in Latin, could be considered the birth of Mac and Cheese. According to the recipe, lasagna sheets made from fermented dough were to be cut into approximately 5 cm squares. These were boiled in water and then baked with grated Parmesan.
According to legend, the former President Thomas Jefferson, after his stay in Italy, brought back the classic American macaroni and cheese when he returned to Virginia. Moreover, he acquired a pasta machine in Italy, which he also brought to the USA. After the death of Thomas Jefferson's wife, his daughter, Mary Randolph, was appointed as the housekeeper. In 1824, she published the cookbook "The Virginia Housewife," in which a recipe called "Macaroni and Cheese" was included. Mary Randolph's recipe consisted of three ingredients: macaroni, cheese, and butter, all of which were layered together and baked in the hot oven. According to historian Karen Hess, the cookbook was among the most influential cookbooks of the 19th century. For this reason, Mary Randolph is still credited with the invention of the recipe "Mac and Cheese" – even though the origin of the American classic likely lay in southern Italy.
To this day, the dish "Mac and Cheese" is considered a staple of American everyday cuisine and is a standard offering in many diners. Over time, there have been many different variations and recipes that have developed regionally.
Mac and Cheese Recipe – American and Delicious
The Mac and Cheese dish is among the absolute favorite dishes of most Americans. We'll show you how to easily prepare the macaroni in creamy cheese sauce and bring an authentic piece of America to your plate.
You can easily cook the American Mac and Cheese recipe in four simple steps. For 6 people, you'll need the following ingredients:
- 500 g macaroni
- 75 g butter
- 75 g flour
- 700 ml milk
- 250 g cheddar cheese
- 75 g parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
Step #1 – Cooking the Macaroni
Place the macaroni in boiling salted water and cook them until they are al dente. Then, drain the pasta using a sieve. Now, you can transfer the macaroni to a shallow baking dish.
Step #2 – Heating and Sautéing the Butter
After cooking and placing the macaroni in the baking dish, put 75 g of butter in a pot and heat it until the butter becomes liquid. Next, add the flour to the liquid butter over low heat and stir the mixture until the flour starts to sweat and form bubbles. This usually takes about two minutes.
Step #3 – Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese
Once the flour mixture is ready, you can remove the pot from the heat. Slowly add milk to the pot while continuing to stir the contents with a whisk. Once you've added all the milk and the sauce has become creamy, place the pot back on the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Now, you can reduce the heat to prevent the sauce from burning. Add about two-thirds (in this case, about 170 g) of the cheddar cheese to the sauce. Keep stirring until the cheese is completely melted.
Step #4 – Into the Oven
In the fourth and final step, the Mac and Cheese dish goes into the oven. You should preheat it to 200°C (ideally in advance). Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni (in the baking dish). Season the cheese macaroni with a bit of salt and pepper and thoroughly mix the noodles to ensure they're well coated with the cheese sauce. Before the Mac and Cheese goes into the oven, sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese and 75 g of parmesan cheese on top. Place the baking dish in the oven for about 5 minutes. The Mac and Cheese is ready when the cheese on top turns golden brown and gently bubbles.
We wish you bon appétit – enjoy the American Mac and Cheese!
6 Facts About Mac and Cheese You Probably Don't Know
It's probably not surprising that such a popular dish in the USA has its own holiday – namely the "National Mac and Cheese Day" on July 14th. But there are many more facts (some truly quirky) about the beloved Mac and Cheese dish from the USA.
- Crayola (an American manufacturer of colored pencils and crayons) has had a crayon color called "Macaroni and Cheese" since 1993
- In the USA, Mac and Cheese ranks #1 among all cheese recipes
- Mac and Cheese has been on the list of the top ten "comfort foods" for many decades
- No joke – the recommended wine with Mac and Cheese is Chardonnay
- There are two restaurants in New York City (S'MAC and Supermac) that have exclusively Mac and Cheese dishes on their menu – although there's also a gourmet version of the dish
- Marlena Spieler and the author duo Deanna Keahey and Steve Kilner have published two cookbooks that consist solely of Mac and Cheese recipes