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.
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
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
The dish has been popular in the United Kingdom since the Victorian
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
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 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.
July 14th is National Macaroni & Cheese day in the United States.