Macaroni and Cheese Day is July 14: A Fun (but Cheesy) Origin Story

Although Americans love macaroni-and-cheese, it might have been an Italian creation dating to the late 13th century. The first Italian recipe called for fermented dough cut in two-inch squares, cooked and tossed with grated cheese – likely Parmesan.

Thomas Jefferson brought a similar recipe to his home in Virginia after traveling to France and Italy in 1787 and served a macaroni pie at a state dinner in 1802. His daughter, Mary Randolph, in charge of household duties after Jefferson’s wife, Martha died, published a recipe book in 1824, The Virginia Housewife and included a recipe of layered macaroni, butter and cheese that was baked before serving. Besides the Virginia recipe, the dish was served in New England, first at a Connecticut church supper as a casserole known as macaroni pudding.

In 1937, during the throes of the Great Depression, the Kraft Company debuted pre-packaged “mac’n’cheese.” It could feed a family of four, for only 19 cents a box! With rationing of products like cheese and meat during World War II the product maintained its popularity. In the 1950’s cooked macaroni was often pared with melted Velveeta cheese. This packaged meal became so popular with families with young children, Crayola introduced a crayon with the same namesake name in the early 90s.

Due to a recent resurgence in popularity, upscale restaurants are creating new ways for their patrons to enjoy this classic by adding figs, rosemary and mushrooms, bacon, or even lobster to recipes. No matter how it’s prepared or served, Americans continue to consider it a staple in their pantries as either a main or side dish all year around.

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