The ultimate southern comfort food, enjoyed by most and sometimes 90% of a toddler’s diet, is our friend and weeknight meal winner: Macaroni and Cheese. This popular staple has graced tables worldwide in its simplest form, elevated with other ingredients and accompaniments, or modified to fit most diets including vegan and gluten-free.
Of course, there is a National Mac and Cheese Day, which is celebrated annually on July 14th. What better way to celebrate than through some history, some great places to nab a bowl in Charleston, and some new recipes to try at home?
The term “macaroni” is Sicilian for kneading dough with force, which aligns with early pasta recipes that often were day-long processes. Let’s get cheesy with a pasta timeline that documents some significant events in its history.
Mac and Cheese History
- 1390: “Forme of Cury” a cookbook comprised of King Richard II’s master cooks contained a recipe called “Makerouns,” which included a thin piece of pastry dough, cut, boiled, and arranged in layers with grated cheese and melted butter, similar to Lasagna.
- 1400: An Italian cookbook called “Liber de Coquina” also featured a dish with pasta and Parmesan cheese.
- 1769: Elizabeth Raffald’s book “The Experienced English Housekeeper” included a recipe for béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese (also known as a Momay sauce in French cooking) which was added to macaroni and then baked until bubbly and golden with Parmesan. The idea of “cheddaring” is a process that gives this cheese its name, plus with a village named Cheddar, it seems most likely this added ingredient originated in England.
- 1788: Former US President Thomas Jefferson stumbled upon macaroni in Paris and fell in love with all things pasta and cheese. James Hemings, a classically trained French chef and slave to Jefferson, was one of the key people who got the recipe back to Monticello.
- 1793: Jefferson sketched pasta, detailed notes for the recipe, and commissioned a pasta machine while still regularly ordering pasta from Europe.
- 1802: Jefferson served a dish called “macaroni” at a state dinner.
- 1824: In the cookbook “The Virginia House-Wife” by Mary Randolph a recipe called “Macaroni and Cheese” involved three ingredients, cheese, macaroni, and butter which were layered and baked in a hot oven.
- 1937: A popular boxed version introduced by Kraft, became a hit during the Great Depression selling nearly eight million boxes in a single year to families for a mere 19 cents.
All this history sure works up an appetite, so let’s hit the streets of Charleston on a culinary tour for the best Mac and Cheese in the Lowcountry. Served as a side dish or main course, the Holy City has you covered.
Local Charleston Mom Favorites
- Home Team BBQ
- Swig and Swine
- Hall’s Chophouse
- Poogan’s Porch – Country ham, cheddar cheese, toasted cornbread crumbs, scallions
- Lewis BBQ – “Our super creamy mac and cheese is sure to please all age groups.” (vegetarian)
- Crave – Nationally and globally acclaimed: 10-year cave-aged sharp cheddar, imported parmigiano, hand-made mozzarella, Italian cavatappi pasta, and chef’s secret ingredients.
- Tavern and Table – Burnt End Mac and Cheese BBQ brisket, lumache, cheese fondue, cornbread crumble
- Coleman Public House – Smoked Gouda, Parmesan, Pecan Smoked Bacon, White Truffle Oil
- Page’s Okra Grill – Pasta tossed in a cajun bechamel sauce with smoked andouille sausage, jumbo sautéed shrimp, and sweet blue crab. Topped with pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheese.
- Chick-Fil-A – A classic macaroni and cheese recipe featuring a special blend of cheeses including Parmesan, Cheddar, and Romano. Baked in-restaurant to form a crispy top layer of baked cheese.
Mac and Cheese has always been touted as one of the most introductory recipes for novice bakers. It is often forgiving for those just learning how to cook, whether out of a box or from a recipe. Try your hand at a few of these recipes for your next dinner or family gathering.
- Local Recipe by Aaron Siegel
- The Pioneer Woman Macaroni and Cheese
- Easy Southern Style Baked Mac and Cheese
- The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Amazing Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese