Hundred-year-old Recipe for Macaroni with Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a wonderful comfort food – and it seems more popular than even. Kids love it, and it’s also often on the menu at very fancy restaurants. So when I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old cookbook for Macaroni with Cheese, I decided to give it a try. The process for making the Macaroni with Cheese was a little different from the modern way of making the dish. The old recipe called for putting layers of bread crumbs (small pieces of torn bread), macaroni, and cheese into a casserole dish. Thin cream (half and half) is then poured over the layers. The dish is then baked until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. 

The Macaroni with Cheese turned out nicely, and was very tasty. The bread crumb layers blended nicely with the macaroni and cheese, and I couldn’t identify separate layers in the finished dish. It just seemed like a typical Macaroni and Cheese. 

Here is the original recipe:

Recipe for Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Good Housekeeping’s Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries (1922)

Apparently macaroni was different a hundred years ago from what it is now. The recipe calls for breaking the macaroni into inch pieces. Today, it is already cut into pieces that are about an inch long.  

When I read this recipe I wasn’t clear whether the three teaspoons of salt went into the water that the macaroni was boiled in, or if it was sprinkled on the layers of macaroni in the casserole dish. In any case, it seemed like a lot of salt, so I instead cooked the macaroni in water that contained 1 teaspoon salt, and just sprinkled a little salt on the layers in the dish. 

450° F. seemed like a very high temperature to bake this dish, but it worked. The Macaroni with Cheese cooked very quickly at this temperature. 

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Macaroni with Cheese

  • Servings: 5 - 7
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

3 cups macaroni

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar.)

2 slices bread torn into very small pieces (about 1 cup of bread pieces)

1/4 cup butter

1 cup half and half

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450° F. Put water and 1 teaspoon salt into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil using high heat. Add macaroni, and reduce heat so that the water gently simmers. Cook the macaroni until al dente, then drain and rinse with cold water. 

Cover the bottom of a buttered 2-quart casserole dish with 1/4 of the bread crumbs. Add a layer with 1/3 of the macaroni. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated cheese; then sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dot with bits of the butter. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of bread crumbs. 

Pour the cream over the top of the layers. Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the bread crumbs are lightly browned and the mixture is hot and bubbly.