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About Mac and Cheese

There is a similar traditional dish in Switzerland, called Älplermagronen (Alpine Herder's Macaroni), which is also available in boxed versions. Älplermagronen are made of macaroni, cream, cheese, roasted onions, and potatoes. In the Canton of Uri the potatoes are traditionally omitted, and in some regions bacon or ham is added. Mac and Cheese

History

Macaroni is mentioned in various medieval Italian sources, though it is not always clear whether it is a pasta shape or a prepared dish. However, pasta and cheese casseroles have been recorded in cookbooks as early as the Liber de Coquina, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks.

A cheese and pasta casserole known as Makerouns was recorded in an English cookbook in the 14th century.  It was made with fresh hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese.  It was considered an upperclass dish even in Italy until around the 18th century.

Thomas Jefferson, who called all pasta "macaroni", is known to have had a pasta maker as early as 1793 and to have served a macaroni pie at the White House in 1802.  There are also records of his purchasing, or attempting to purchase, imported pasta after his term as president.

The dish has been popular in the United Kingdom since the Victorian era.

Variations

Macaroni and cheese is generally cooked macaroni with white sauce that has a cheese flavor. In the French style of cooking, such a sauce is called Mornay sauce. A white sauce, called Béchamel sauce in French cooking, is traditionally made by whisking scalded milk gradually into a white flour-butter roux (equal parts clarified butter and flour by weight).

Another method, considered less traditional, is to whisk kneaded flour-butter (beurre manié) into scalded milk. The thickness of the final sauce depends on the proportions of milk and flour. Cheese is incorporated into the sauce either as flavoring or as a substantial portion of the final product. Taste and opinion differs widely, but modern opinion seems to favor substantial amounts of cheese.

After mixing together the sauce and cooked macaroni, it may be served immediately — or, alternatively, placed into a casserole for baking. The latter method may include various toppings, including breadcrumbs. A precooked version known as "Macaroni and cheese loaf" can be found in some stores.

In Scotland, the dish is often presented in a pastry shell as "macaroni cheese pie".

Packaged mixes

Packaged versions of the dish are available as a convenience food, consisting of boxed pasta and either a liquid cheese sauce, or powdered ingredients to prepare it. In the latter case, the consumer may add either milk or water, and margarine, butter or olive oil. In preparing the dish, the macaroni is cooked and drained, then mixed with the cheese sauce. 

Extra ingredients, such as cooked ground beef, jalapeños, sliced hot dogs, Spam, Tabasco sauce, fried bacon, canned tuna or salmon, peas, broccoli or other vegetables are sometimes incorporated into the dish. The product can be prepared in a microwave, baked in a traditional oven, or cooked on a kitchen stove.

There are a number of different products on the market that use this basic formulation with minor variations in ingredients.

Celebrations

July 14th is National Macaroni & Cheese day in the United States.

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