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Macaroni and Cheese (Mac and Cheese) for beginners

In my opinion, pasta and cheese are a great combination.  Undoubtedly Macaroni and Cheese (Mac and Cheese) is a favorite in many households.  Indeed also a favorite for the beginner cook, looking for an easy recipe to follow. 

But where did Macaroni and Cheese originate?

In the 14th century it was recorded in an Italian cookbook, Liber de Coquina.  This recipe was made with parmesan cheese and paste.

A cheese and pasta casserole was also famous way back then as an English medieval cookbook had a recipe for Forme of Cury.  (Referring to a dish made with fresh hand-cut pasta and a mixture of melted cheese and butter.)

Now modern recipes of Macaroni and cheese include a Béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese.  In French cooking, the sauce would be called a Mornay sauce.  I think the idea of macaroni, sprinkled with cheese, and baked until bubbly and golden, is simply fantastic.  Some indulgence is to add heavy cream to the recipe, but this is purely optional. 

How To Make Macaroni and Cheese (Mac and Cheese)

Easy Mac and Cheese recipe

What to expect!

The original recipe would have only macaroni and cheese in it, but our recipe has a twist.  Topped with tomato, it gives it an extra bit of flavor, but it is optional.  
As is the bacon that we’ve added.

Time: 60 mins

Course: Lunch, Dinner

This recipe is not an authentic Italian pasta recipe.  It is one we came across in South Africa.  A traditional homemade comfort food in many South African homes.


  • 4 cups milk
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 8 tbsp plain flour “all-purpose flour” / “cake wheat flour”
  • salt & pepper season to taste
  • 1 packet Macaroni prepare as per the instructions on the packet
  • 1 block mature cheddar cheese or cheese of your choice
  • ¼ tsp red pepper or paprika OPTIONAL
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano OPTIONAL
  • sliced tomatoes OPTIONAL
  • diced bacon OPTIONAL Bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto
  • parsley OPTIONAL to garnish
  • red onion, finely chopped OPTIONAL
  • italian mixed spice OPTIONAL


Preheat oven to 180°C.


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Stir in the flour. Whisk in a little of the milk at a time, stirring continuously until you have a smooth, slightly thick sauce. (It is easier to use a whisk than a spoon.)
  • Remove from the heat; season with salt and pepper and add the grated cheddar.


  • In a separate pan, fry the onion and bacon with your preferred spices.
  • Mix the pasta, fried bacon, and onion as well as the sauce all together and spoon into a lightly greased baking dish.
  • Top with sliced tomato, Parmigiano-Reggiano grated cheese, and parsley on top.

Bake for 30 to 40 min until golden and set.

Best homemade South African recipe for Macaroni and Cheese
The origin of the recipe

The Italian ‘Liber de Conquino’ or ‘Book of Cooking’ dated back to the 13th century included a recipe called “de lasanis”. This is believed to be the origin of Macaroni and Cheese.  The recipe called for sheet pasta cut into 2-inch squares, cooked in water, and tossed with grated cheese like Parmesan.

Americans improvised and used cheddar cheese.

Today there are thousands of versions of Mac and Cheese, even including onion, bacon, and tomato, and often a variety of cheeses.

Box mixes – According to Wikipedia

“Boxed mixes consist of uncooked pasta and either a liquid cheese sauce (often labeled “deluxe”) or powdered ingredients to prepare it. The powdered cheese sauce is mixed with either milk or water, and margarine, butter, or olive oil and added to the cooked pasta. Some mixes prepared in a microwave cook the pasta in the sauce.

Another popular variant is jarred macaroni cheese sauce, which is especially popular in the UK and US, available under the Dolmio and Ragú brands, among others. The pasta is purchased and prepared separately, then mixed with the heated cheese sauce.

Powdered cheese sauce, very similar to what is found inside a box of macaroni and cheese mix, is also sold without the pasta. 

A number of different products on the market use this basic formulation with minor variations in ingredients.

Although high in carbohydrates, calories, fat, and salt, macaroni and cheese is a source of protein and certain variations of the dish can decrease the negative health aspects.”

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