Saturday, September 16, 2023

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

In my 11 February 2023 post, I promised to share a quintessential American recipe with historical ties to the Venetian torchio pasta press. This recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese comes from Jubilee – Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2019) by the Julia Child Award winning author Toni Tipton-Martin.

In the recipe’s introduction, Tipton-Martin highlights James Hemings’s role in establishing macaroni and cheese’s American roots. She writes:


“Hemings was an enslaved chef in Thomas Jefferson’s home who mastered the sophisticated techniques of French classical cooking in Paris, including the operation of a ‘maccaroni’ press. As Monticello’s chef de cuisine, Hemings handwrote his recipes; the ones whose records have survived include fried potatoes (French fries), burnt cream (crème brûlée), and ‘Nouilles a maccaroni’ (macaroni noodles). It’s known that he prepared a ‘macaroni pie’ for a White House dinner in 1802. The macaroni recipe turns up topped with grated cheese following its publication in The Virginia Housewife published in 1845 by Mary Randolph, a Jefferson relative.”


Tipton-Martin goes on to document macaroni and cheese’s development by Black chefs, but for our pasta-making purposes, let’s peel off here. To create Nouilles a maccaroni, Hemings used a torchio that Jefferson purchased in Europe. The Library of Congress holds Thomas Jefferson’s drawing of a macaroni machine and instructions for making pasta, ca. 1787.


Here is an image of an antique torchio attributed on Flickr to the collection of the Museo di Serravella.



And, finally, Bugialli on Pasta (1988, Simon and Schuster) contains a photograph of the great Giuliano Bugialli using an “antique Bigolo”.



Tipton-Martin’s recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese serves 8 to 10. 


Softened butter, for the baking dish

1 pound elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Jack cheese

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted

½ cup sour cream

3 large eggs, well beaten

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.


2. Bring a large pasta pot or saucepan of generously salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain.


3. In a large bowl, combine the Cheddar and Jack cheeses. Measure out 1 cup of the cheese mixture and set aside for the top of the dish. Layer the remaining combined cheeses and macaroni in the buttered baking dish, beginning and ending with the macaroni.


4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, evaporated milk, ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste), white pepper, and cayenne. Pour the cream sauce over the macaroni and cheese. Top with the reserved 1 cup of cheese and sprinkle generously with paprika. Place the dish on a rimmed baking dish to catch any juices that spill over.


5. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the top is browned and crusty, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Using dried commercial pasta speeds up the dish’s preparation. However, if you own a torchio, you can make approximately one pound of pasta using the following ingredients: 300 grams “00” flour, 2 medium eggs, and 2 medium egg yolks. (I weigh the eggs and egg yolks shooting for a total egg mixture weight of approximately 150g.) Back in 2019 I wrote about a bronze 6mm ridged macaroni die (here) that I bought from Emiliomiti during its World Pasta Day sale. Although a little on the small side, this shape definitely works in this dish. I’ve also made this recipe using pasta from my lumache die.