Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes — beloved by all Americans — that transcends geographical location or history. We eat it from sea to shining sea. It’s a nostalgia-inducing classic, the perfect compliment for everything from BBQ, to burgers, to Hennessy. It thrives in dank college dorm rooms and upscale restaurants. Point being, mac and cheese can do it all.
But just because mac and cheese is loved by Americans doesn’t mean it was founded here. The holy trinity of macaroni, cheese, and butter has been around for a very long time. So long, in fact, that perhaps eating it is actually hard-wired into our DNA — making it the ultimate comfort food.
Macaroni comes from a Greek word for something made of barley, or makaria. This was adopted and corrupted by the Italians and became “maccheroni.” Maccheroni was a catch-all phrase for pasta around the time maccheroni and cheese sauce started popping up in medieval cook books.
The Liber de Coquina, or Book of Cooking, was published around the beginning of the 1300s. That’s roughly the same time William Wallace was marauding around Britain and killing English. Liber de Coquina includes recipes for baked pasta dishes with parmesan and other cheese sauces. Basically your average mac and cheese casseroles. If you can read Latin, the cookbooks are available online. They’re a fascinating snapshot into our shared culinary past.