The first known recipe for a macaroni and cheese casserole, which was made with elbow pasta along with a white sauce and yellow cheese, was published in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1896.
The dish became popular in 1937 when Kraft Foods Inc. wanted to promote processed cheese, and from then on dozens of variations of the recipe emerged in cookbooks. These days it has become the latest food trend in upscale restaurants with versions that are deep-fried and others with crab or lobster added.
Traditional macaroni and cheese starts with a roux (a butter and white flour sauce) and cheese, usually Velveeta. Many cooks, however, prefer to use a firmer cheddar cheese, or mix in other flavourful cheeses such as Gruyere, Fontina, and Gouda. The dish is then sprinkled with a breadcrumb and cheese crust and baked in the oven at a high temperature to brown the top. Still delicious after all these years.
It’s a good idea to make extra so you can fry the leftovers the next day.
Mac ‘n Cheese
Makes 4-5 servings
1 lb (3 cups) macaroni
25 ml (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, plus extra for crackers
50 ml (1/4 cup) flour
Pinch of white pepper
250 ml (1 cup) cold milk
625 ml (2 1/2 cups) grated medium cheddar, divided
2 dozen soda crackers
Preheat oven to 200º C (400º F). Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain well and place in a casserole dish. Melt butter in a separate saucepan until it bubbles. Add flour and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 1 minute. Add white pepper. Gradually add milk to flour mixture, whisking for about 5-8 minutes, or until thickened. Add in 500 ml (2 cups) of grated cheese and stir until melted.
Pour cheese sauce over pasta and mix together. Place in oven-proof casserole and add 125 ml (1/2 cup) grated cheddar cheese on top. Butter one dozen soda crackers and place another dozen crackers on top, put in a plastic bag and crush into small pieces, then scatter over cheese. Bake in hot oven until topping is golden brown approximately 10-15 minutes. Place leftover macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator
Fried macaroni and cheese: Heat oil in a frying pan and add the chilled macaroni and cheese, separating it a bit with a wooden spoon. Partially cover the pasta until it is easily separated, uncover, and fry on medium-high heat approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring often.