When you hear the word “macaroni,” does the phrase “…and cheese” follow close behind? Of course it does, since macaroni and cheese has been an American favorite for centuries. Macaroni pasta itself, however, has roots in various Medieval Greek and Italian sources, although no one is quite sure if the word refers to the shape of the pasta or to the prepared dish. The first pasta and cheese recipes made their appearance in Medieval cookbooks, with one version showing up in an English cookbook in the 14th century. [photo via flickr]
Whatever the name refers to, or no matter how long it’s been around, macaroni is a versatile ingredient that plays a starring role in many dishes today. From casseroles to soups and everything in between, there’s really nothing a macaroni noodle can’t do. And, since it’s a popular food choice for kids, we spent Macaroni & Cheese Day–that being July 7th–cooking up an old-fashioned mac & cheese recipe. So old-fashioned, in fact, that’s it’s called Civil War Macaroni and Cheese. It tastes better than that, though….
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni pasta (2 to 2 1/2 cups)
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups, packed, grated cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- Cayenne (optional)
- Heat the milk in a large saucepan until steamy. Stir in the dry macaroni pasta. Let come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Pay attention while the macaroni is cooking in the milk as the milk may foam up and boil over if the milk gets too hot. Cook the macaroni for 15 minutes or until done. The macaroni should absorb almost all of the milk.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. As soon as the macaroni is close to being done, melt the butter in a separate saucepan, stir in the grated cheese, black pepper to taste and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Once the cheese has melted, pour the sauce into the macaroni and milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Place macaroni and cheese mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne (if using). Bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Yield: Serves 4.