First macaroni and cheese
Liber de coquina
/ first
Italy ()

The first recognizable recipe for macaroni and cheese appears in the Liber de coquina (“The Book of Cookery,”), an early 14th-century codex penned in Latin by an anonymous scribe associated with the Neapolitan court. The recipe, titled “de lasanis,” calls for flat squares of pasta to be tossed or layered with grated cheese. A recipe also appears in the first extant English-language recipe manuscript, The Forme of Cury, compiled in 1390 by King Richard II’s master cooks.

Although Thomas Jefferson is generally credited with introducing macaroni and cheese to the American public, the dish was in fact known long before he popularized it (and his enslaved chef, James Hemings, was the one who actually prepared it). A detailed recipe for macaroni and cheese appeared in Elizabeth Raffald’s 1769 cookbook, The Experienced English Housekeeper, and various recipes were published in early American cookbooks.

In 1937, after the American food manufacturer Kraft introduced its still-bestselling Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, macaroni and cheese became an industrially produced convenience food. The ease of preparation and low price quickly moved the dish from the tables of the elite to those of the poor and middle class, and in the process, mac ‘n’ cheese became the ultimate comfort food.