Having enjoyed so many fine and varied meals in the United States it’s no surprise that when we’re not roadtripping, we like to cook American-inspired meals at home. One of our favourite comfort-foods is the humble macaroni and cheese.
The Liber de Coquina, or Book of Cooking, an Italian cookbook from the 13th century, includes a recipe called de lasanis that foodie historians believe is the first macaroni and cheese recipe. A cheese and pasta casserole known asmakerouns was recorded in the famous medieval English cookbook, the ‘Forme of Cury’ which was written in the 14th century.
The future American president Thomas Jefferson encountered macaroni both in Paris and in northern Italy. 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 did not enjoy the cheesy macaroni dish.
Kraft Foods introduced the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner in 1937, at the end of the Great Depression. Called “the housewife’s best friend, a nourishing one pot meal,” it was a fast, filling and inexpensive way to feed a family. In that year alone, 8 million boxes were sold.
Our go-to recipe is rather fancy but pretty much any combination of cheese, butter and macaroni is alright by us!
You’ll need (this makes 2 standard size dishes of MacNCheese equal to about 8 servings):
*500g dried macaroni *150g pancetta/chopped-up bacon *100g breadcrumbs *100g cheddar (topping) *600ml whole milk *60g butter *60g plain flour *1 x small red onion *1 x garlic bulb *truffle oil *thyme (dried or fresh – whatever you’ve got) *200g Gruyère *200g strong chedder cheese *salt and pepper.
How to make:
1.Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente then drain. Refresh the pasta in cold water. Pour the cold macaroni into two oven-proof dishes.
2.Fry the pancetta or bacon in thyme until nice and crispy then, when cold, stir through the cooked macaroni evenly.
3.Drizzle about a tablespoon of truffle oil into each dish of macaroni. Set aside.
4.Slice the onion into four and remove the skin, place in a medium sized pan and add a clove of garlic sliced in two. Add some pepper and the milk and bring to the boil before turning the heat off and placing a lid on top.
5.In a large pan, melt the butter and then add the flour and whisk until a pale paste has formed.
6.Drain the milk – pop a sieve over a jug to catch the garlic and onion which you discard – and then add it a ladle at a time to the ‘roux’ the butter and flour).
7.Once all the milk’s been added whisk for a few minutes until it’s thick and gently bubbling.
8.Pre-heat the oven to about 180c/350f/gas mark 4.
9.Add the Gruyère and cheddar (you don’t have to use these exact cheeses if you don’t like them – you might want stronger cheeses like stilton also) and some salt and pepper and stir through until completely melted.
10.Pour 3/4s of the cheese sauce into the dishes of macaroni and stir through so all the pasta is nicely coated. Then pour the remaining cheese sauce on top.
11.Toast some breadcrumbs (heat a pan and heat the breadcrumbs for about half a minute stirring them so they don’t burn) and add this to the top of the dishes along with the 100g of grated cheddar. Season to taste.
12.Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Enjoy!