Macaroni Cheese

It is unexpected that macaroni is traditional in English cooking, but it was first prepared at the court of Richard II in about 1390 and served more or less as the dish we call Macaroni Cheese. The early recipe, which does not inspire confidence, is:

“Macrows. Take and make a thin foil of dough, and carve it in pieces, and cast them on boiling water, and seeth it well. Take cheese and grate it and butter cast beneath and above ... and serve forth.”

C. Anne Wilson, historian and author, says that macaroni had been invented only a short time earlier in Italy. The recipe probably reached the English court because Richard II was known to be a great gourmet. Although there seem to be no recipes for Macaroni Cheese in English cookery books for the next 400 years, there are one or two references to “Maccharoni”. By the early nineteenth century macaroni had become a sophisticated London novelty and was used with chicken or shellfish to make small moulds, turbans and a very fine pie.

With the exception of vermicelli, which was used in clear soups and consommés, macaroni is the only form of pasta which became a part of traditional English cooking.

Read more


  • ½ lb (240 g) macaroni (short or long)
  • cups (3 dl) cheese sauce
  • Butter
  • cup (60 g) grated Cheddar or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt


Bring 1 quart (9 dl) of water to the boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and plunge in the macaroni (if the macaroni is the quick-cooking short kind, boil it for 10 minutes; if it is long, break it into short lengths and boil for 20 minutes). Drain the macaroni well and stir it into the cheese sauce.

Butter a shallow fireproof dish and pour the macaroni into it. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Put the dish under a hot grill or at the top of a hot oven, 425°F (220°C, Gas Mark 7), for about 10 minutes for the cheese to melt and slightly brown.