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Macaroni And Cheese
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Macaroni And Cheese: 5 Recipes With A Twist

Macaroni and cheese, a quintessential comfort food, has a rich history that mirrors the evolution of culinary practices and socio-economic shifts. Throughout its history, macaroni and cheese has adapted to regional tastes and available ingredients, resulting in various delightful recipes. We explore some of these diverse recipes, each offering a unique twist on the classic dish and demonstrating the versatility and enduring appeal of macaroni and cheese.

The earliest form of pasta, akin to what is used in mac and cheese, dates back to ancient Greece. The Greek “makaria,” a barley broth-based dish with pasta, laid the foundation. This concept evolved significantly in Renaissance Italy, where pasta became a staple. The medieval cookbook “Liber de Coquina” offers the first recorded recipe resembling mac and cheese, “de lasanis.” This dish, a combination of sheet pasta, grated cheese, and spices baked in a casserole fashion, set the template for future iterations.

England’s introduction to mac and cheese can be traced to the 14th-century cookbook “The Forme of Cury,” featuring a recipe for “makerouns.” This early version involved pasta layered with butter and cheese, then baked. The simplicity of this recipe, using the limited cheese varieties available at the time, resulted in a dish with a milder cheese flavour and a denser texture due to the absence of creamy sauces.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, also significantly popularised macaroni and cheese in America. He developed a fondness for the dish during his travels in France and Italy, eventually importing a macaroni machine to the US.

However, the real culinary expertise behind mac and cheese’s refinement in America came from James Hemings, Jefferson’s enslaved chef, who trained in French cuisine. Hemings is credited with adapting European techniques to American tastes, elevating the dish’s status.

The introduction of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in 1937 marked a turning point. Its success was fueled by the socio-economic conditions of the Great Depression and World War II, where affordable, easy-to-prepare meals became essential. The product’s convenience and affordability made it a staple in American households, paving the way for mac and cheese to become a ubiquitous comfort food.

Macaroni and Cheese International Adaptations

Over the years, the basic recipe for macaroni and cheese has evolved to include a variety of interpretations. Mac and cheese’s adaptability has led to unique variations around the world.

The Caribbean Macaroni And Cheese

The Caribbean version, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago, transforms mac and cheese into “macaroni pie.” This baked dish is infused with local spices like curry powder and Scotch bonnet peppers, introducing a bold, spicy kick that contrasts with the creamy cheese. Adding evaporated milk and sometimes mustard or ketchup adds complexity to the flavour profile. 

Trinidad and Tobago Macaroni Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb elbow macaroni
  2. 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  3. 1 cup evaporated milk
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  6. 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1 tsp mustard (preferably yellow)
  9. 1/2 tsp paprika
  10. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
  11. Salt and black pepper to taste
  12. 2 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
  13. 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (for topping)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat Oven and Cook Macaroni: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Prepare Vegetables: In a small pan, sauté onions, green bell pepper, and garlic in a bit of oil until soft and fragrant.
  3. Mix Eggs and Milk: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, mustard, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.
  4. Combine Macaroni and Mixture: Add the cooked macaroni to the egg and milk mixture. Stir in the sautéed vegetables and grated cheese (reserve a little cheese for the topping). Mix well until everything is evenly combined.
  5. Assemble the Pie: Grease a baking dish with butter. Transfer the macaroni mixture into the dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and the reserved cheese—Dot with small bits of butter.
  6. Bake the Pie: Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the pie is set.
  7. Cool and Serve: Let the macaroni pie cool for a few minutes before cutting it into squares. Serve warm as a hearty and delicious side dish or a main course.
Macaroni And Cheese
Image: Michael

Korea Macaroni And Cheese

 Korea’s recent fusion cuisine trend has led to the creation of “Kimchi Mac and Cheese.” This innovative dish combines creamy mac and cheese with spicy, tangy kimchi, a staple in Korean cuisine. The fermented cabbage adds a unique depth of flavour and a hint of heat, balancing the cheese sauce’s richness. 

Kimchi Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb elbow macaroni
  2. 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  3. 1 cup Gouda cheese, grated
  4. 2 cups milk
  5. 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  6. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1 cup chopped kimchi (preferably aged for deeper flavor)
  8. 1 tbsp kimchi juice
  9. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  10. 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  13. 2 green onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  14. 1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat Oven and Cook Pasta: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Cook the macaroni in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Make Cheese Sauce: In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in flour to create a roux, cooking for another 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk to avoid lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens. Add smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add Cheeses: Lower the heat, and stir in cheddar and Gouda cheese until melted and smooth.
  4. Add Kimchi: Stir in the chopped kimchi and kimchi juice, mixing well.
  5. Combine with Macaroni: Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese and kimchi sauce, stirring until well combined.
  6. Bake with Breadcrumbs: Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy.
  7. Garnish and Serve: Let it cool for a few minutes. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds before serving.

Canada Macaroni And Cheese

The classic Canadian Kraft Dinner is a staple comfort food known for its simplicity and quick preparation. It’s essentially macaroni and cheese from a box, but Canadians have a special fondness for this particular brand and style. Here’s how to prepare it: Ground beef is another popular mix-in, turning the dish into a hearty, all-in-one meal. 

Canadian Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

  1. 1 box of Kraft Dinner (which includes macaroni and a cheese sauce mix)
  2. 4 cups of water (for boiling the macaroni)
  3. 1/4 cup milk (for the cheese sauce)
  4. 4 tablespoons butter or margarine (for the cheese sauce)

Instructions

  1. Boil the Macaroni: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the macaroni from the Kraft Dinner box. Cook the macaroni for 7-8 minutes or until it reaches your desired level of tenderness. Stir occasionally.
  2. Drain the Macaroni: Drain it in a colander once it is cooked. Do not rinse. Return the drained macaroni to the pot.
  3. Add Milk, Butter, and Cheese Mix: Add 1/4 cup of milk and 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine to the cooked macaroni. Stir until the butter is melted. Then, sprinkle the cheese sauce mix from the Kraft Dinner box over the macaroni. Mix well until the macaroni is evenly coated with the cheese sauce.
  4. Heat and Serve: If needed, place the pot back on low heat to warm the mixture, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Once heated through, remove from heat.
  5. Optional Variations: While the basic Kraft Dinner is a beloved classic, many Canadians enjoy adding their twist. Common additions include sliced hot dogs, a can of tuna, chopped vegetables, or a sprinkle of black pepper or hot sauce for extra flavour.
Macaroni And Cheese
Image: Oleg

The Gentrification of Macaroni and Cheese

Contemporary variations of mac and cheese break the traditional mould, introducing gourmet and unconventional elements. Chefs have begun experimenting with ingredients like truffle oil, adding an earthy depth and luxurious aroma. Lobster has become a popular addition with its delicate, sweet meat, turning the humble mac and cheese into a sumptuous feast. 

Exotic cheeses like smoked Gouda or blue cheese are mixed into the classic cheddar blend, introducing complex flavours and elevating the dish’s profile. Vegan versions have also gained prominence, utilising nutritional yeast to impart a cheesy flavour without dairy. Plant-based cheeses from ingredients like cashews or almonds create a creamy consistency similar to traditional cheese sauces. These contemporary take on mac and cheese cater to diverse palates and dietary preferences while maintaining the essence of comfort that the classic dish offers.

Béchamel-based Macaroni and Cheese

A blend of cheeses, often including sharp cheddar for depth, Gruyère for nuttiness, and Parmesan for a savoury kick, is melted into the warm béchamel. This fusion creates a lusciously creamy sauce that clings to the al dente macaroni. The final dish offers a harmony of textures and flavours, with the rich, creamy sauce enveloping each pasta piece, promising a decadent bite every time.

Ingredients

  1. 1 lb elbow macaroni
  2. 4 cups milk
  3. 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  4. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  6. 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  7. 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  8. 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional for topping)
  11. 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (optional for topping)
  12. 2 tbsp butter (optional for topping)

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven and Cook Pasta: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Boil the macaroni in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Warm Milk: In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk until warm but not boiling.
  3. Make Béchamel Sauce: In a separate, larger saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking continuously to create a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes until it turns light golden. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue to cook and whisk until the sauce thickens.
  4. Add Cheese: Remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in the cheddar and Gruyere cheese, nutmeg, mustard powder, salt, and pepper until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. Combine with Macaroni: Mix the cooked macaroni into the béchamel sauce, ensuring each piece is well coated.
  6. Prepare Breadcrumb Topping (Optional): If using a breadcrumb topping, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake: Transfer the macaroni and cheese to a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over it if you’re using it. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
  8. Rest and Serve: Let the mac and cheese rest for a few minutes before serving to allow it to set slightly.

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

A luxurious take on the classic comfort dish, blending the rich, savoury flavours of fresh lobster with creamy, cheesy pasta elevating the traditional macaroni and cheese into a gourmet meal. 

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb macaroni pasta
  2. 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  3. 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  4. 2 cups whole milk
  5. 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  6. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  7. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  8. 2 cooked lobsters, meat removed and chopped
  9. 1 tsp mustard powder
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  13. Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat Oven and Cook Pasta: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Cook the macaroni in salted water until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  2. Make Cheese Sauce: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes to create a roux. Gradually whisk in milk and heavy cream, avoiding lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens. Lower the heat, and add cheddar and Gruyere cheese, mustard powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  3. Combine Pasta and Lobster: In a large bowl, mix the cooked macaroni with the chopped lobster meat. Pour the cheese sauce over the mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Transfer to Baking Dish: Pour the macaroni mixture into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
  5. Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.
  6. Garnish and Serve: Let it cool slightly, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve warm.

The macaroni and cheese story is more than a tale of a popular dish; it’s a narrative that reflects historical transitions, cultural exchanges, and culinary innovations. From its Mediterranean roots to its status as a modern-day staple, mac and cheese remains a canvas for creativity and comfort, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. Whether enjoyed in its simplest form or as a gourmet creation, mac and cheese remains a testament to the enduring appeal of this humble yet versatile dish.

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