Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese
Course Main or side dish
Place of origin United Kingdom
Region or state Widespread throughout United Kingdom, United States, Canada
Serving temperature Hot or warm
Main ingredients Macaroni, cheddar sauce (or a mix of bechamel sauce cheddar or parmesan cheese), milk, butter, flour
Food energy
(per serving)
400 (Kraft) kcal
Cookbook: Macaroni and cheese  Media: Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese—also called mac and cheese in American, Canadian, and Australian English; macaroni pie in Caribbean English;[1] and macaroni cheese in the United Kingdom[2]—is a dish of English origin, consisting of cooked macaroni pasta and a cheese sauce, most commonly cheddar. It can also incorporate other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, meat and vegetables.[3][4]

Traditional macaroni and cheese is a casserole baked in the oven; however, it may be prepared in a sauce pan on top of the stove or using a packaged mix.[4] In the United States it is considered a comfort food.[5][6]


Pasta and cheese casseroles have been recorded as early as the 14th century in the Italian cookbook by Brian Liber de Coquina, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks, which featured a dish of parmesan and pasta. A cheese and pasta casserole known as makerouns was recorded in the famous medieval English cookbook, the Forme of Cury, which was also written in the 14th century.[7] It was made with fresh, hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese. The recipe given (in Middle English) was "Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh. and kerve it on peces, and cast hem on boillyng water & seeþ it wele. take chese and grate it and butter cast bynethen and above as losyns. and serue forth." ("Make a thin foil of dough and cut it in pieces. Put them in boiling in water and seethe them well. Grate cheese and add it with butter beneath and above as with losyns [a dish similar to lasagne], and serve.")[8]

The first modern recipe for the dish was included in cookery writer Elizabeth Raffald's 1770 book, The Experienced English Housekeeper. Raffald's recipe is for a Béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese—a Mornay sauce in French cooking—which is mixed with macaroni, sprinkled with Parmesan, and baked until bubbly and golden. The famous British Victorian cookbook Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management included two recipes for the dish. One recipe states that "The macaroni, (which should be "tender but perfectly firm, no part being allowed to melt, and the form entirely preserved" – lest one be tempted to cook it for so long it actually disintegrated) is then topped with more cheese, pepper and breadcrumbs, before receiving a final dose of melted butter for good measure and being placed before a "bright fire" to brown the crumbs, or grilled with a salamander broiler.[9]

In the United Kingdom, during the 2010s, it has seen a surge in popularity, becoming widespread as a meal and as a side order in both fast food and upmarket restaurants.[10]

American history

The American president Thomas Jefferson encountered macaroni both in Paris and in northern Italy. He drew a sketch of the pasta and wrote detailed notes on the extrusion process. In 1793, he commissioned American ambassador to Paris William Short to purchase a machine for making it. Evidently, the machine was not suitable, as Jefferson later imported both macaroni and Parmesan cheese for his use at Monticello.[11] In 1802, Jefferson served "a pie called macaroni" at a state dinner. The menu of the dinner was reported by Reverend Mannasseh Cutler, who apparently was not fond of the cheesy macaroni dish.[12] Nevertheless, since that time, baked macaroni and cheese has remained popular in the United States.

Baked macaroni and cheese

A recipe called "macaroni and cheese" appeared in the 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife written by Mary Randolph. Randolph's recipe had three ingredients: macaroni, cheese, and butter, layered together and baked in a hot oven.[13] The cookbook was the most influential cookbook of the 19th century, according to culinary historian Karen Hess.[14] Similar recipes for macaroni and cheese occur in the 1852 Hand-book of Useful Arts, and the 1861 Godey's Lady's Book. By the mid-1880s, cookbooks as far west as Kansas and Festus, Missouri, included recipes for macaroni and cheese casseroles. Factory production of the main ingredients made the dish affordable, and recipes made it accessible, but not notably popular. As it became accessible to a broader section of society, macaroni and cheese lost its upper class appeal.[15]

In the United States, July 14 has been branded as "National Macaroni and Cheese Day".[16]

Canadian history

Macaroni and Cheese was brought to Canada by British immigrants, coming from other parts of the British Empire. Macaroni and cheese recipes have been attested in Canada since at least Modern Practical Cookery in 1845, which suggests a puff pastry lining (suggesting upper-class refinement), a sauce of cream, egg yolks, mace, and mustard, and grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese on top. Canadian Cheddar cheese was also becoming popularized at this time and was likely also used during that era.[17]

Macaroni and cheese is very popular in modern-day Canada, as it is in the rest of the Commonwealth. Kraft Dinner is the most popular brand of packaged macaroni and cheese. Sasha Chapman, writing in The Walrus, considered it to be Canada's national dish, ahead of poutine.[18]

Regional variations

Pasta other than macaroni noodles are often used: most any short-cut extruded pasta and many of the decorative cut pasta will do, particularly those with folds and pockets to hold the cheese. The dish may still be referred to as "macaroni and cheese" when made with a different pasta; while "shells and cheese" is sometimes used when it is made with Conchiglie.

While Cheddar cheese is most commonly used for macaroni and cheese, other cheeses may also be used—usually sharp in flavor—and two or more cheeses can be combined. Popular recipes include using Gruyere, Gouda, Havarti, and Parmesan cheese.

Macaroni and cheese can be made by simply layering slices of cheese and pasta (often with butter and/or evaporated milk) then baking in a casserole, rather than preparing as a cheese sauce.[3] Also, some like to include a crunchy topping to their baked macaroni and cheese by topping it off with bread crumbs or crushed crackers.

Macaroni and cheese pizza

One novelty presentation is deep-fried macaroni and cheese found at fairs and food carts.[19] In Scotland, the dish is often presented in a pastry shell as macaroni cheese pie. In the US macaroni and cheese pizza can be found on restaurant menus and recipe web sites.

A similar traditional dish in Switzerland is called Älplermagronen (Alpine herder's macaroni), which is also available in boxed versions. Älplermagronen are made of macaroni, cream, cheese, roasted onions, and in some recipes, potatoes. In the Canton of Uri, the potatoes are traditionally omitted, and in some regions, bacon or ham is added. The cheese is often Emmental cheese or Appenzeller cheese. It is usually accompanied by apple sauce.

Extra ingredients sometimes incorporated into the dish include tomatoes, onions, leeks, dried herbs, Tabasco sauce, sautéed mushrooms, ham, cooked ground beef, sliced hot dogs, Spam, fried bacon, lobster, canned tuna or salmon, jalapeños, peas and broccoli.[20]

Prepared and packaged mixes

A plate of pre-packaged Kraft macaroni cheese, served with tomato and sausage

Packaged macaroni and cheese is available in frozen form or as boxed ingredients for simplified preparation. Boston Market, Michelina's, Kraft, and Stouffer's are some of the more recognizable brands of prepared and frozen macaroni and cheese available in the United States. "Macaroni and cheese loaf" can be found in some stores.[21]

A variety of packaged mixes which are prepared in a sauce pan on the stove or in a microwave oven are available. They are usually modeled on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (known as Kraft Dinner in Canada), which was introduced in 1937 with the slogan "make a meal for four in nine minutes." It was an immediate success in the US and Canada amidst the economic hardships of the Depression. During the Second World War, rationing led to increased popularity for the product which could be obtained two boxes for one food rationing stamp.[22] The 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook includes a recipe for the dish with Velveeta, which had been reformulated in that year. The boxed Kraft product is immensely popular in Canada, where it is the most-purchased grocery item in the country.[17]

Boxed mixes consist of uncooked pasta and either a liquid cheese sauce or powdered ingredients to prepare it. The powdered cheese sauce is mixed with either milk or water, and margarine, butter, or olive oil and added to the cooked noodles. Some mixes prepared in a microwave cook the pasta in the sauce.

Another popular variant is jarred macaroni cheese sauce, which is especially popular in the UK and US, available under the Dolmio and Ragü brands, among others. The pasta is purchased and prepared separately, then mixed with the heated cheese sauce.

Also, powdered cheese sauce, very similar to what is found inside a box of macaroni and cheese mix, is also sold separately without the pasta. This product is produced by several companies, most notably Bisto, Cabot, and Kraft.

A number of different products on the market use this basic formulation with minor variations in ingredients.[23] Often, packaged macaroni and cheese mixes contain ingredients that are not certified as kosher. This is because many cheese products include rennet, an extract containing the enzyme rennine, which is procured from a non-kosher animal.

See also


  1. Staff (14 January 2007). "Macaroni Pie Recipe". Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  2. BBC, Recipes, Macaroni cheese
  3. 1 2 Moskin, Julia (4 January 2006). "Macaroni and Lots of Cheese". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  4. 1 2 "Perfect Macaroni and Cheese". Martha Stewart Living. 66 (February 1999). Retrieved September 22, 2012.
  5. Joseph, Dana (10 May 2012). "American food: the 50 greatest dishes". CNN Travel.
  6. Clark, Liam (27 July 2016). "What is Macaroni and Cheese (Mac and Cheese)?". Forkit.
  7. James L. Matterer. "Makerouns". Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  8. "The Forme Of Cury". Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  9. Mrs Beeton's Household Management - Mrs. Beeton (Isabella Mary), Isabella Beeton. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  10. Samuel Muston (2013-05-02). "How did macaroni and cheese become elevated to the new sought-after side dish?". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  11. McLaughlin, Jack. Jefferson and Monticello: the Biography of a builder. p. 229.
  12. Cutler, William Parker, Julia Perkins Cutler , Ephraim Cutler Dawes , Peter Force (1888). Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Mannasseh Cutler, Volume 2. R. Clarke & Co. pp. 71–72.
  13. Randolph, Mary; Hess (Editor), Karen (1984). The Virginia House-wife (Facsimile First ed.). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. p. ix.
  14. Kummer, Corby (July 1986). "Pasta". The Atlantic. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  15. National Mac & Cheese Day Wisconsin Cheese Talk July 14th, 2010
  16. 1 2 Chapman, Sasha (September 2012). "Manufacturing Taste". The Walrus. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  17. Chapman, Sasha (September 2012). "Manufacturing Taste". The Walrus. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  18. Bryan Martin (May 27, 2014). "Deep fried mac and cheese: A hipster hit".
  19. "50 Mac and Cheese Recipes". Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  20. Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. "What is Macaroni and Cheese Loaf?". wiseGEEK. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  21. "Kraft Macaroni & Cheese: A History". Chicago Tribune. August 14, 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  22. Guide to Macaroni and Cheese Spread of ratings for all 130 products in Macaroni and Cheese evaluated by GoodGuide.
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