Macaroni cheese (mac and cheese in the US) is my ultimate comfort food. It is the one dish that every one of my siblings asks mum to make when we visit home. Like everyone else’s mum would say, my mum’s macaroni cheese is the best, and nothing else comes close. Not only does it fill you up with a satisfying, comma inducing carbohydrate load, it is the taste of home, and where the food plays second fiddle family conversations.
It is agreed by historians that the word ‘macaroni’ comes from a Greek funeral dish called ‘makaria’, however this is a broth made from barley rather than pasta. It is a commonly held belief that Marco Polo introduced macaroni to Italy from China in 1292, but it has since been shown that macaroni existed in Italy at least a century before then. Another interesting fact is that it is claimed that Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the US, was responsible for the introduction macaroni to the US after visiting Italy and France. He initially commissioned a machine to make macaroni, but had to resort to import one from Italy.
My mum’s Macaroni cheese
The real key to this recipe is the type of cheddar. It isn’t anything special, my mum uses Cathedral City Extra Mature Cheddar, but it should be ‘real’ cheese and as strong and mature as possible.
- 8oz (235g) macaroni
- 8oz (235g) grated mature cheddar cheese + 1oz (30g)
- 0.5 UK pint (285ml) of milk. UHT or Semi-skimmed (2%)
- 4oz (120g) plain (all purpose) flour
- 2oz (60g) butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Add the macaroni and the chopped onion to a pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is just ‘Al dente’. In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and stir to make a ‘roux’. Gradually add the milk while continually stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Add the majority of the grated cheese to the sauce and stir until it melts. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix to combine. Pour the macaroni cheese into a shallow casserole dish. Add some sliced tomatoes (optional) and then cover with the rest of the cheese. Place the casserole dish under the grill (broiler) until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve with garden peas or green beans and enjoy.