notes on macaroni jefferson

Macaroni and Cheese

Thomas Jefferson introduced the first pasta maker and Parmesan cheese to Colonial America. Among the few existing recipes in his hand is one for macaroni, then a generic term for pasta. (We can also thank him for the first recipe for vanilla ice cream in the US.) He served a variation of this now all-American recipe at a White House dinner in 1802, a time when it would have been considered pretty sophisticated Italian fare.

The above image is Jefferson’s drawing of a macaroni (pasta) machine and notes from the Library of Congress. Click here to read more. TJ, you’re the man.

1 pound elbow pasta
salt to taste
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 ½ cups Gruyere, grated
3 cups cheddar cheese, grated
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 350º F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until not quite al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Mix the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the cheese, one cup at a time and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Whisk in a pinch of nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the Parmesan and breadcrumb mixture and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 12

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