Series: MODEST MONDAYS
All things in moderation is the theme of Modest Mondays, a weekly online cooking series with simple recipes to help counter the effects of overeating over the weekend.
The first macaroni and cheese recipe can be traced back to the 13th century in southern Italy. However, it looked a little different from the way it is now: lasagna sheets were cut into 5cm squares, cooked and the tossed with cheese, probably Parmesan
Nowadays, we usually think of it as an American staple, and one story credits Thomas Jefferson for this. Apparently, while visiting France, he became enamored of fashionable pasta dishes served there and brought back noodle recipes and a pasta machine, since this foodstuff was unavailable in the Colonies. As president, he served macaroni and cheese at an 1802 state dinner.
Kraft introduced its boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937, during the Great Depression, and it without fresh produce available, it became comfort food. It still is today, and is even served in myriad dressed-up ways at upscale restaurants. Someone is always trying to come up with “the best ever mac ‘n cheese” – making it with seven cheeses, or wrapping it in bacon, and even putting it on a stick and deep-frying it like the Scots do to Mars bars
Mac ‘n cheese usually starts with a white sauce: flour cooked in butter to which milk is added. The cheese is melted in the sauce and elbow macaroni is added, and then the whole thing is poured into a casserole dish, the top sprinkled with breadcrumbs and more cheese, and then baked.
In the simpler version featured here, we’ve been inspired by an Alton Brown recipe and have used evaporated milk and egg in place of the white sauce. It is made from start to finish on the stove-top, which means it is even quicker to make. Bake it if you prefer – single portions in ramekins can also be browned in a toaster oven.
Mac ‘n cheese is normally eaten as a side dish, but we’ve made it the main course here. The greens and carrots are added on the plate because a balanced meal is always advised. But we’re not kidding anyone – we all know that we could eat mac ‘n cheese on its own straight out of the pot!
130g elbow macaroni
50ml evaporated milk
1 tsp hot chilli sauce
½ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp salt
130g Cheddar cheese, grated
breadcrumbs (if baking the mac ‘n cheese)
In a large pot, cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for a minute less than what is instructed on the packet. Drain, but keep ¼ cup of the pasta water.
Return the macaroni to the pot and place over low heat. In a jug, combine the milk, egg, chilli sauce, mustard powder and salt. Pour the mixture into over the macaroni. Add the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts and becomes stringy, 2-3 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add a little pasta water. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To bake, place mac ‘n cheese in an overn-proof casserole or use ramekins for individual portions. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and more grated cheese if desired, and bake in a 190°C oven until the top is browned.