Civil War Macaroni and Cheese

Today, as I write this, marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of America’s Civil War, with the bombardment of Fort Sumter . I recently took my 13-year old nephew to visit our nation’s capitol, including visiting Robert E. Lee’s house at Arlington National Cemetery, and a day wandering the battlefield at Gettysburg. The National Military Park Museum at Gettysburg is not to be missed, by the way. Not only does it give you a clear and thorough understanding of the 3-day battle that took place there, but the photos and relics on display give us a fascinating glimpse into what life must have been like back then. And it wasn’t really that long ago. My grandmother was born in 1899. The last Civil War veterans died in the 1950s. My grandmother would have encountered many a Civil War veteran in her younger days.

So, what did they eat in the 1860s? How did they eat? Most people lived on farms or in rural areas, so they grew, shot, foraged, or fished their own food. Many people didn’t have stoves. Many cooked their meals over an open fire in a fireplace or hearth. Which is all the more reason why I was so surprised to find a recipe for “Maccaroni Cheese” in a collection of Civil War recipes (Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book) along with recipes for okra soup, indian pudding, gumbo and brown bread. Mac-n-cheese in the 1860s, really? Really! Turns out that our founding father Thomas Jefferson helped popularize “maccaroni” in our country, “maccaroni” being a general term he used for pasta. And according to Wikipedia, versions of macaroni pasta with cheese and butter were published in cookbooks as early as the 14th century.

According to the Civil War Recipes book, the following “maccaroni cheese” recipe first appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine in 1861 (circulation 150,000). It’s only one sentence long, and as you will see, is wildly open for interpretation:

Boil the maccaroni in milk; put in the stewpan butter, cheese, and seasoning; when melted, pour into the maccaroni, putting breadcrums over, which brown before the fire all together.

How much milk? What kind of cheese? How much cheese? What seasoning? Well, if recipes are guidelines, then this recipe isn’t much more than just that, a guideline. For our interpretation, we use 2 cups of milk for every cup of elbow macaroni pasta. We use equal amounts of pasta and cheese, and use cheddar for the cheese. The seasonings we use are nutmeg, pepper, and cayenne. Mace would have been commonly available in the 1860s, nutmeg is more often used now. Pepper and cayenne would have been widely available too. The result? A triumph! Actually, it’s kind of hard to go wrong with mac and cheese, but we had never cooked the macaroni directly in milk before, so didn’t quite know how it would work, or if the proportions were right. For us 2 cups of milk for every 1/4 pound of pasta worked fine.

Update 1-27-12 I’ve discovered another recipe from Godey’s published in this blog. The author says that Parmesan cheese would have been more common to use in a mac and cheese from this era. Good to know!

Civil War Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni pasta (2 to 2 1/2 cups)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups, packed, grated cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • Cayenne (optional)

Method

1 Heat the milk in a large saucepan until steamy. Stir in the dry macaroni pasta. Let come to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Pay attention while the macaroni is cooking in the milk as the milk may foam up and boil over if the milk gets too hot. Cook the macaroni for 15 minutes or until done. The macaroni should absorb almost all of the milk.

2 Preheat oven to 400°F. As soon as the macaroni is close to being done, melt the butter in a separate saucepan, stir in the grated cheese, black pepper to taste and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Once the cheese has melted, pour the sauce into the macaroni and milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add salt if needed.

3 Place macaroni and cheese mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne (if using). Bake in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

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Links:

Civil War macaroni and cheese recipe - from a Civil War re-enactor, using a different recipe from Godey's
Yankee Doodle - stuck a feather in his cap and called it "macaroni" (the fashion, not the pasta)
Wikipedia on Macaroni and Cheese
Quick Macaroni and Cheese here on Simply Recipes

71 Comments

  1. Joplin

    Oh this is fantastic thank you for posting! I have been making mac and cheese with milk and people always think I am crazy but they always love it. It is a bit hard to keep the milk from boiling over sometimes but it’s oh so worth it!

    PS been reading your blog for quite awhile and it has been my homepage for as long as I can remember. Thank you for what you do!

    Joplin

  2. d.liff @ yelleBELLYboo

    There is nothing like homemade mac and cheese! I’ve lived in DC for a couple years and I’ve still never been to the Arlington Cemetery – it really is something I need to do!

    It is so worth the trip. Beautiful up there, easy to get to on the Metro. At the tomb of unknown soldiers there is a 24-hour guard, with a formal changing of the guard every 1/2 hour. While we were there we observed the changing of the guard and they played taps. Lee’s house is lovely. Beautiful view of DC and the Potomac.~Elise

  3. Karina

    Awesome! I always knew Thomas Jefferson had imagination and good taste. Who knew he loved mac and cheese?

  4. Rebecca Harrach

    This is a great post. Your writing is terrific. I love how you have historically contextualized this recipe.
    I have read that in some old recipes for macaroni and cheese the directions call for boiling the macaroni for “an hour and a quarter”, and if that did not make it soft enough, “another 15 minutes”. I guess tastes have changed! In any case, thank you for the recipe and the history.

  5. Paula

    As the mother of four, all of them under 7 years old, I thank you! Their most favorite food in the world is mac and cheese and this looks like a recipe that is not only interesting because of the history behind it, but also something that my husband and myself will enjoy. Good Bye Blue Box with neon orange “cheese” sauce! I love reading your blogs and look forward to them. Thank you again for all of the great recipes.

  6. Susan

    I wonder how this would work with Brown Rice elbows? Since there is no roux, it could easily be converted to gluten free. Think I’ll try that.

  7. Shirley Mills

    Elise – Adding to your comments regarding your sort-of connection to Civil War veterans, I’d like to share my experience with you. When I was 17, back in 1951, I used to hang out at the Dorchester (MA) Pottery Works where they made high-fired stoneware. One day while I was in the show room admiring the bowls and mugs and wishing I could afford a piece, the owner, Charlie, ushered in an elderly lady. I don’t remember thinking she was really really old just “up there”. Charlie told me to shake the lady’s hand, and after I did as I was told, Charlie said, “You’ve now shaken the hand of someone who has shaken the hand of Abraham Lincoln.” It seems she was a baby when he was out campaigning and as all campaigners do, he stopped and “coochie-gooed” as he shook her little hand. To this day I’m amazed at how long ago the Civil War seems, yet how close in time it really was.

    What a great story, wow! Thank you for sharing it. ~Elise

    • lois king

      For Elsie
      Hi there I read your comment on mac and cheese, I was born in Dorchester mass many yrs ago at home on 18 magnolia square, in my gram’s house back there one more time. I wish I could go back once more time.just wanted to say hi
      lois.

  8. booch221

    I’m curious about what kind of macaroni they had during the Civil War? I imagine they made it at home, although according to Wikipedia, the first industrial pasta factory in America was built in Brooklyn in 1848.

    Me too! I’m wondering if at that time, as in Jefferson’s time, macaroni just was a term for pasta, not the specific tubed and bent shape that we associate with the term now. ~Elise

  9. razzle

    Yummy… mac n cheese… :) I was just thinking about it the other day. (okay I confess, the microwave little containers they sell at the supermarket kind) This looks so easy. I have to omit the cayenne though, spicy is not good for my baby girl. Can I use a mix of Jiffy corn muffin mix and crushed saltine crackers? I don’t have any bread for breadcrumbs…

    I think just the crushed saltines would work fine. ~Elise

  10. Cassandra Potier Watkins

    I have some old (not even that old) French cookbooks that give instructions like this. In fact the very famous ‘Je Sais Cuisiner’ (I know How to Cook) is more an aphorism than the promise of aquiring new skills. If you do not know how to cook before picking this you risk being seriously confused.
    Also, for more history on macaroni… at the time it was considered the height of fashion given that had come from Italy and the men that had been able to go on the Grand Tour in Italy came back with a taste for macaroni. Hence the song Yankeedoodle was a joke on the foppish yankees that would stick a feather in their hat and call it macaronni!

    Hi Cassandra – according to the Wikipedia, macaroni in Yankee Doodle referred to a excessively fashionable person. Funny, eh? ~Elise

  11. Marilyn

    Why can’t you just stir the butter and grated cheese into to cooked macaroni and milk rather than use another pan? Yours is the only food blog I follow incidentally – great recipes, information and beautifully simply presented. Thank you for it.

    You could do that; I was trying to follow the method of the original recipe. ~Elise

  12. Lotti

    In Switzerland we call them “Chäshörnli” :-) .
    For the Grown-ups we make them with a lot of crispy dark-brown onion-stripes on the top.

  13. Cynthia

    This recipe sounds fantastic!!! I love Mac and Cheese and my husband always brags how his Step-mother made the best Mac and Cheese. I always make mine with a little “Red Eye” County Ham for a little extra flavor. I am going to try this version. I graduate next month with my Doctorate and we are having a big party. I am going to indeed make this version as everyone in my family loves it. I live in Petersburg, Va where the Battle of the Crater was fought. I have been to DC many times and have yet to go to Arlington National Cemetery. I will have to do that this summer along with going to “Ben’s Chili Bowel” for a “Half Smoke”. I love your blog and read it everyday at work. Keep those recipes coming. I save them all in my YummySoup software. Thanks again!

  14. sharon

    thank you for this maccaroni and cheese dish.
    As anreinacttor I try to find dishes that was eaten back in 1862, and try to cook as they did.
    any orther dishes or places to find recipes would be greatful. once again thank you. Sharon

  15. Nancy Long

    Oh, the memories of visiting Arlington Cemetary and Lee’s mansion. I was born in DC and grew up in Maryland. Really miss it. Most of my kids are still up there in Virginia. When I was a young girl, I used to dream of living in the mansion when I grew up. lol The mac and cheese sounds much like one that a friend’s mother in New Orleans makes. Definitely will be trying this one soon.

  16. Melissa

    I read a book about the history of children’s songs. It mentioned that Yankee Doodle was a joke. That macaroni was what they called the elite group of society during the American Revolution. The song was written by the British to insult the Americans who were mostly farmers at that time. It backfired because the Americans thought that it was amusing.

    Indeed. Here is the Wikipedia link on macaroni fashion. ~Elise

  17. Susan

    I grew up in the DC metro area (Rockville, MD) and have been to all those places and then some. The advantage of going to school in the area was the connection we could make to the history of the U.S, especially the civil war. We had field trips to all of the historical places every year I was in school. I’ve been a U.S. history buff ever since. Glad you were able to take your nephew to see those sites. There is so much to see in DC alone, but there is so much more just outside the area too. Good time of year, too, April and October are the best, weather-wise.
    .
    I imagine the milk used back in the “olden days” was unhomogenized or pasturized and quite a bit creamier than what we use now. Even if they used milk where the cream had been skimmed off, the pasta would have leached some starch into the liquid (like rice does in rice pudding) and the cheese melted to thicken the dish. I’m definately going to try cooking the pasta in the milk next time I make mac and cheese. Thanks, Elise.

  18. Bella

    Would love to see the texture of the finished product– you know, a fork holding a bite so that I can see the consistency– especially since no roux is involved.

    What kind of cheddar works best? Mild, medium, sharp, extra sharp?

    It may be hard for most to make a bad batch of mac and cheese, but I always seem to find it easy to mess up!

    Sorry, we ate it all. No more for bite-sized photos. Since this dish is so open to interpretation, I would just use your favorite melty cheese. I used a medium cheddar, which was fine for our taste. ~Elise

  19. Lulu

    This made me laugh. My family is Brazilian and I have seen plenty of recipes in my mother’s cookbooks which are just as vague as this, with no quantities for ingredients and with instructions such as, “cook in a hot oven until done”. Eyeballing it is how Brazilians normally cook, so this is not strange or vague at all to them.

    From what I have observed, this is because in Brazil, girls are expected to begin honing their domestic skills from a very young age; I remember seeing my cousin in front of the stove at the age of 8, and she wasn’t just “helping out”; she was preparing a meal. The only meal I knew how to prepare at that age was cold cereal with milk.

    Mom told me that if you know what you’re doing, you don’t need such detailed recipes (she laughs at the step-by-step pictures that I find so useful) and that in Brazil every woman has a “notion of the kitchen”, so they can read a recipe and just figure it out. In fact, I get teased mercilessly by every Brazilian woman I know (including my mother) for not having this all-important “notion of the kitchen” and also because my cooking is, according to them, “American cooking”, which Brazilians turn their noses up at. But I digress.

    What I’m getting at is that probably in those days here in the US it was the same, where recipes didn’t need to be so detailed because women were so experienced in the kitchen that they could easily eyeball quantities and times.

  20. Cassie

    Would have never thought to boil the pasta in milk! That sounds delicious. When using cheddar for melting purposes I like to mix it with just a little bit of “super-melty” cheese like monterey jack or mozzarella or fontina, to help with the grainy texture that cheddar can sometimes have

  21. Kathy

    I really enjoyed this post, as I do so many of your posts. You mentioned the circulation of Godey’s Ladies Book at 150,000. This popular women’s magazine was handed around to friends and family, so the readership was so much higher than the actual circulation!

  22. Kim Crawford

    Have always been intrigued by ‘historic’ recipes that are still in print. Great recipes can be found in Williamsburg cookbooks. Thanks, Elise, for your Robert E Lee comments. To add….any fan of Lee should also visit the Lee Chapel and Museum in Lexington, VA where you can see the crypt of Lee, his Memorial Statue and the grave of Traveller, his famous horse.

  23. Monica

    This sounds fantastic. I’ve never cooked my macaroni in milk so this sounds fab. I don’t know why that’s never occurred to me before since one my favorite variations of mac & cheese is when I’ve cooked my macaroni in tomato juice. Can’t wait to try this version! Thanks!

  24. Tina

    Great post. I’ll have to try this recipe the next time I want mac & cheese. You know, the absolute best mac & cheese I’ve ever had in a restaurant was from the cage at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in DC. They serve it every day and it’s the richest, creamiest version I’ve ever had. From what I could tell from examining it while having lunch there a couple of weeks ago, they use sharp white cheddar, milk and cream, as well as just a touch of finely minced jalapeño. I think I’ll try your recipe with the addition of the jalapeño in place of the cayenne and see how it stack up.

  25. mantha

    Like most kids who went to school in America when they still taught world geography, I know that Marco Polo brought pasta to Europe; still, a historic recipe for mac and cheese delights me. This one would work fine for me cooked over an open fire, even outside, something to think about for a camping trip. Also extra nourishing with the pasta being cooked in the milk, which is not poured off like cooking water (with half the starch value) but becomes part of the sauce, whatever isn’t absorbed.

    This recipe inspires a haiku:

    Food of gentler gods
    “just before the battle, mother . . . “
    Hush. Sit down and eat.

    Can you not imagine that smelling this cooking might have inspired at least a temporary truce between the blue and the grey?

  26. Jan

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was very good. I never thought to cook pasta in milk before. I added half an onion chopped and a large tomato that I diced up along with cayenne and a touch of mustard powder. Next time I will use a non-stick fry pan to cook the cheese mixture in – wasn’t easy cleaning it out of my stainless steel pot!

  27. Filipa

    Hi Elise, Really enjoyed reading your post! I love Maccaroni Cheese though I can’t get my husband to eat it without adding chopped up grilled bacon! Thanks for the recipe, I will be adding Nutmeg & Cayenne pepper next time I make it! Filipa x

  28. Thom

    Made this last night and turned out okay… at least I didn’t scorch the milk! The next time I will use a quality cheddar and not the cheap store brand.

  29. Edith

    Made this for dinner last night and all loved it. The blue box company just lost a loyal customer! I added a pinch of turmeric to ‘orange’ it up so the kids wouldn’t go into orange box mac ‘n cheese withdrawal. :)

    Clever! ~Elise

  30. Janet

    Loved this post! My boyfriend really wants to go visit Gettysburg and other places associated with the Civil War. Any recommendations as to must see?

    I highly recommend the official park museum (avoid the touristy “museums” in town), and the film and cyclorama they show there. ~Elise

  31. EMK

    I had no idea the Macaroni and Cheese had such a long histry! Now we have so many kinds of mac and cheese recipes to choose from (Artisanal Mac and cheese recipe developed by Terrance Brennan is my current favorite! http://americankitchen101.blogspot.com/2011/03/artisanal-macaroni-and-cheese.html) But I’ve never seen the recipes which require boiling pasta in milk! I have to give it a try!

  32. msmithclan

    We were in Gettysburg just 2 weeks ago. I love it there, and we took a self-guided tour through the battlefields. The Gettysburg battle was not just a little field, but vast areas of farmlands, it was so overwhemling. I am so glad you got to go there and experience it.
    I love the idea of this recipe- boiling in milk- have never heard of that before. Again, thanks for sharing such a unique recipe. I wonder if you went to the David Wills house? That was something!

  33. Jean Marie

    What a good idea to cook the mac in milk! I’m so glad that you got to see so much during your trip. My maternal grandparents are buried at Arlington and I have a pass that lets me drive right in. The trip to Gettysburg is well worth it – and mandatory for a lot of local grade schools. Next time, you can go to Mount Vernon on your little road trip and eat in Alexandria.

    We did eat in Alexandria one night, at The Fish Market, excellent food and service. ~Elise

  34. Kathleen

    Not only does the recipe look delicious, but I am so excited/impressed to find a civil war recipe in general! Like many who posted, I grew up in the DC area (northern virginia) and my father is a huge Civil War fanatic (as well as macaroni and cheese fanatic). I can’t wait to share this with him!

  35. Scott

    That worked amazingly well…Thanks for my new way of making Mac N Cheese!

  36. Rob

    Stumbled across this blog by accident but what and fun and interesting read. I’m over in Scotland in the UK and I love Mac n Cheese. I would normally use mustard powder as the spice and add fried leeks and bacon pieces to bulk it up.

  37. Sid

    Love this recipe and will try it soon. I collect old cookbooks and even have a civil war cookbook I bought at Fort San Marco in St. Augustine. It makes for an interesting read.

  38. Dimara

    Made this last night, it was tasty, but the cheese separated and got all clumpy. I used smoked cheddar and fontina, but they were regular store brands. Were they not good quality and caused the separation? Still ate it and am enjoying leftovers today.

    I’ve made it a couple times since and I think the clumping issue has to do with how much milk is left in the pan after the macaroni is cooked. The milk should be almost all absorbed by the pasta. If there is too much milk, then the cheese can clump. The best way to avoid this is to measure out the pasta by weight. Elbow macaroni comes in different sizes, and the small size will pack together more and be more weight per cup. ~Elise

  39. Sally

    Made the Civil War Mac/cheese for lunch today. We all enjoyed it. Needed a bit of salt and I wish I had had all cheddar cheese (about half was the preshredded jack and cheddar), but we’ll use this recipe again for sure.
    Thanx

  40. Valerie

    Made this last night, used non-fat milk and chedder/jack cheese blend. Increased recipe by 1/3 to feed everyone. My kids loved it! Didn’t have breadcrumbs so I toasted 3 slices of bread and crumpled them on top. Also, stirred in the butter & cheese directly into the pot with the noodles until melted. Worked great. I will try sharp cheddar next time for more zing. Having the name “Civil War” in the recipe intrigued everyone enough to come to the dinner table on first call! Thanks!

  41. Bonita Braun

    I added the mac and cheese recipe to our ‘old fashion’ comfort food dinner and movie night. I cooked it as given. With one exception which is I may have been heavy on red pepper! Worked well with nutmeg though which was dried and not fresh. Hot dogs and baked beans rounded out a good meal for four. I have been blessed by being able to visit the places you mention and hope all may be able to do the trip.

  42. Elise R.

    Gettysburg is one of my favorite historical places to go! We live about 45 minutes away from it, but don’t go as often as we should.

    Mac and cheese is a huge favorite in our house, and I can’t wait to try out this tried and true recipe! Who would’ve thought that it was such a popular meal even back then? But then again, 150 years isn’t that long ago, is it? :)

  43. Sara Bowe

    I think I may have made a tactical error in making this civil war mac o cheese. My boyfriend is a history buff and a Mac and cheese lover. I made this tonight, scorched the first batch of milk, made a heck of a mess of the kitchen but the end result was met with rave reviews. I liked the addition of the hot pepper because all the mac o cheese i’ve ever had needed a bit of kick. You always have great recipes, but somehow you make everything seem easy!

  44. Ali Reynolds

    Thank you! This is awsome. I ran across the recipe and had everything on hand. Put it in a large pie dish and topped it with Panko crumbs. Heaven! Next time just to change it up, I will add some diced Ortega green chilis.

  45. Sarah

    Is it possible to make this mac & cheese without baking it? The reason I ask is because I don’t have an oven. I live in Japan, in an apartment the size of a closet with a kitchen the size of a phone booth. All I have is a single-burner stove. Kinda like camping. This recipe is making me drool (not exaggerating….I am swallowing back the saliva here) but not sure if it will be any good if I can’t bake it. Thoughts?

    Sure, just don’t add the breadcrumbs or do the last oven step. ~Elise

  46. ~Nancy

    I made this the other night and I’m not sure what happened because the cheese sauce curdled once I added it to the macaroni milk mixture. What did I do wrong?!? Help…

    Hi Nancy, I’ve made this again a couple of times and once it curdled as well. That time instead of measuring out by weight the macaroni, I just used cups. Problem was the macaroni was larger and I actually needed more to get to the 1/2 pound. So, there ended up being a lot of milk left in the pan when the pasta was done and the cheese curdled. When I made it again with more macaroni (a full 1/2 pound) I didn’t have a problem. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect this. ~Elise

  47. Erin

    Mine also curdled – I used pre grated cheddar. Is that wrong?

    Could be, or it could too much milk for the amount of pasta. ~Elise

  48. Erin

    I did it again last night and instead of melting the cheese and butter separately, I put them right into the pot with the milk and macaroni (I added the cheese slowly). It came out awesome!

    I’ve added the cheese directly to the pasta and have had it curdle, so who knows? I do think it has something to do with the amount of excess milk, but I could be wrong about that. ~Elise

  49. CB

    This was a great recipe – I started in my cast iron coated dutch oven and did not melt the cheese and butter in another pot, just put it right in when the macaroni was done.

    I also doubled the recipe and used 4 cups milk and 4 cups half and half – next time I will do all half – and half. I also added a box of cream cheese, something i have done before and i think it was just great, if anything it was a little dry.

  50. Christina

    I timidly made this and at dinner both my girls started chanting ‘more often’ at the dinner table as they thought this an idea dinner. Hugh. Both my husband and I were very pleased aswell. Cooking in milk gave the noodles a nice consistancy, it was rich, and alittle goes a long way. We liked it better then America’s Test kitchen mac and cheese recipe that had been our regular recipe. Now this is! I can’t wait to bring this to the next pot luck event.

  51. Cynthia Richardson

    This recipe is awesome. I made this and added more cheese and different types of cheese. It was hard to season it with salt so I think I will add the salt to the milk as I cook the macaroni. I am going to make a LARGE batch of this for my Doctoral graduation party next month. My family and friends will love this!!!

  52. DH

    Yum!! Thank you it was a refreshing change. We will be making again.!

  53. Charlotte Yanush

    Thanks for this wonderful “old” recipe. Everyone in my family loves macaroni and cheese, so I will definitely be trying this one. I love all of the historical facts and travel notes that you have included also. I live in the Northeast, so these place are within my traveling distance. Also, I have a nine year old granddaughter who is a Civil War expert. She will love it that this recipe came from that period in time.

    One question, is the dish you used an Apilco porcelain dish??? I just bought one and it really looks like an Apilco to me. They are so lovely. Thanks so much.

    Oh, I think that’s just a French gratin dish I picked up at Williams Sonoma. ~Elise

  54. Catherine

    I made this the other night and really liked it. Used very strong English cheddar. The pasta I used was the small ear shaped pasta. I added a bit of Cholula sauce to the mix plus hot paprika on top. I think I will add some raw spinach leaves to the mixture next time before baking as I think they will blend well with the nutmeg flavoring. Also plan on using half cottage cheese and half cheddar. Very comforting to eat. I had it on its own with a salad but will probably serve sausages next time.

  55. Stacy

    This was not a successful recipe for me, which is most likely due to user error. Bah. The cheddar was a stringy, clumpy, separated mess before I even put into the mac and milk mixture. Any thoughts on why? I love the concept of the recipe and will probably try it again with a different variety of cheese that melts a bit better than cheddar.

  56. Michael

    Well, I’m this is pure user error, but I ended up burning the heck out of the bottom of the pasta and milk mixture. Is this a “stir constantly” sort of thing? I followed the instructions exactly, but wound up with a burnt mess in the pan.

  57. Sandra Regina

    Made this for a potluck at work today. It came together so easily (I melted the butter & cheese right in the pot). The spoonful I snuck ‘to taste’ did taste wonderful. Here’s hoping its a success at work!

  58. Dawn

    I made this last night with the Steak Diane recipe. I think I prepared the meal in about 45 minutes including a salad. It was fantastic! Thanks again for another great recipe.

  59. Sara

    I tried this and it curdled horribly. I was doubling the recipe — using 1 pound of pasta. The pasta did not even come close to absorbing all the milk. I am wondering if it is because I used a low-fat milk. I’m guessing that when the recipe was written they would have used only whole milk.

  60. CM

    This has become my go-to mac and cheese recipe! It’s so easy and requires so little prep and active time. I’ve been making it once a week or so because my 4-year old loves it and actually gets excited about eating dinner when I make it. I do it all in one pot instead of making the cheese sauce separately. I’ve successfully halved and doubled the recipe (the doubled recipe is especially easy to remember — one box of pasta, one stick of butter, one carton of milk, one pound of cheese!) I’ve made it with 2% milk and it still tastes good but the sauce is a little lumpy. I usually use a blend of jack and cheddar.

  61. Georgette

    Served this tonight for dinner party. I thought I had a box of elbow macaroni in the pantry but they turned out to be penne pasta. Still, the dish was a hit. Used sharp yellow cheddar & some leftover white garlic cheddar. Had some doubts about boiling the pasta in milk, but it was delicious & everyone had seconds.

  62. Eryn

    Just whipped this up in under an hour–delicious! I think it’s going to replace my mother’s tasty but elaborate macaroni casserole with bechamel sauce.

  63. RiiRii

    I realllllllllllllllllllly liked this

  64. Joyce

    Great recipe!. I often try these older recipes and somehow something just doesn’t work out. This one did and it’s so good! Thanks for posting!

  65. Eve

    I have to say this is the first time I’ve tried once of your recipes and it hasn’t worked out like I expected. I may have done something wrong but I’m confused about the step that involves melting the cheese and the butter separately. It’s really hard to turn it into a sauce without involving the milk, and when my shredded cheese had fully absorbed the butter it had turned into one large chunk of cheese, making it very difficult to blend it with the pasta + milk in the other sauce pan. Also once the pasta had baked and cooled down a bit, it seemed that it had absorbed all the milk (though there was a creamy milk + cheese sauce when it went into the oven) and it was no longer creamy, just cheesy + the breadcrumbs. Any tips?

    It’s so hard to tell, every brand of cheese is different. Could be what works for you needs more milk. Perhaps adding some milk to the cheese in the separate pan. Perhaps adding more milk to the macaroni before it goes in the oven. Although I made this several times with cheddar, I would like to try it again with Parmesan, which according to one Civil War expert I recently read was more common than cheddar and would have been more likely to have been used in this recipe. That would probably make it even less like the mac and cheese that we have become accustomed to. ~Elise

  66. CTS Blog

    sounds just like the recipe I use and it is a big hit in my house

  67. Lynda

    I made this recipe and reviewed it here: http://misslyndaj.blogspot.com/2011/12/civil-war-macaroni-and-cheese.html
    Happy Eating!

  68. Stephanie Ann

    Macaroni during the 1850s and 60s was “pipe macaroni” and was similar to the noodles that come with packages of Mac and Cheese today.

    Here’s another Civil War Era Macaroni and Cheese Recipe:

    http://worldturndupsidedown.blogspot.com/2011/05/civil-war-era-macaroni-and-cheese.html

  69. Anna Vipp

    yummy thanks for sharing! (: and I Agree with your post Kathleen
    I have to say 100 Cheers for Thomas Jefferson

  70. Jeff Sulman

    Looks like a simple but good recipe, I will try it for my next mac and cheese. My family stopped at Gettysburg three years ago on our way from my parents house in Connecticut to where we now live in Dallas. Way we planned on spending half a day there but ended up doing 3 1/2 and we still could have spent a few more. Wonderful place! It had helped that we read a lot about it before we went.

    Also, your comment about how long ago it occurred was interesting. Did you know that there were Revolutionary War veterans alive during the civil war? I remember when I was 13 during our nations bicentennial we got a copy of National Geographic that contained pictures of living Revolutionary Vets who were alive and taken during the civil war. This means is that your grandmother and could have known people, who know people who fought in the Revolutionary War!

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