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Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Posted in : Old New England Recipes on by : Michael Marsha Tags: , , ,

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

I know you all have had baked macaroni & cheese many times in your lives. But, do you all know where it originated from?

Pasta and cheese casseroles have been recorded since the 14th Century. It was found in some early Italian cookbooks. Yes, believe it or not, there were cookbooks written back in those days.  Next, the recipes were found in the Medeival ages in England. Back in the 14th Century and Medeival England, the cheese used was Parmesan.

The first modern recipe was found in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1770 cookbook, The Experienced English Housekeeper. She used a Bechemel sauce with cheddar cheese (a Mornay sauce in French cooking), mixed with the macaroni, sprinkled with Parmesan and baked until bubbly and golden. In 1784 it was deciided that the macaroni should be boiled first and drained before adding the sauce.

In 1861, the British Victorian cookbook, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management included a couple of macaroni and cheese recipes. One of them said “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.”

American President Thomas Jefferson along with his chef James Hemings brought the idea for macaroni & cheese back to the United States from Paris. It was first served at a state dinner in 1802, but was not well received at that time.

In 1824, Mary Randolph included a recipe in her cookbook, The Virginia Housewife.  It had only 3 ingredients; macaroni, cheese and butter which was then layered and baked in a hot oven. This was the most influential cookbook of the 19th Century.  Ever since then, recipes for macaroni and cheese are plentiful. You’ll find them in every cookbook.  There are so many different versions, so you can choose the one you like the most.

This recipe is an old New England recipe. It can be rather dry, so if you decide to make it, remember to add some extra milk.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

  • 3-1/2 cups elbow macaroni, about 6 cups cooked
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse bread crumbs, approximately
  • 10 to 12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste (remember, cheese is quite salty)
  • 1 cup milk

Cook the macaroni according to package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Grease (with butter) bottom and sides of a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Put in a layer of macaroni, sprinkle with cheese, dot with butter, salt, and pepper. Repeat until all ingredients are used up, ending with layer of cheese. Add milk. Sprinkle a good layer of bread crumbs over the top; dot with butter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.

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