Last week Bogdan and I went to Town Tavern in Royal Oak because Four Square told us the lobster mac and cheese was “to die for.” It was not.

For the most part it was okay. The lobster was cooked well, the macaroni was slightly overdone but acceptable, the sauce could have been creamier. It would have been okay overall (like 6.5 out of 10 maybe?) but the ritz cracker crust was burnt. I don’t mean browned, I mean charred. Seemed to be a theme since the truffle fries we ordered were also covered in burnt garlic, which as far as I know is a big culinary no-no.

We definitely had high expectations not only based on the Four Square reviews, but also based on the cost. At $17 for a small plate of mac and cheese it better be to die for.

Anyway, the point is that after that experience I decided I would make my own mac and cheese from scratch. It’s a longstanding fascination of mine to taste the most scratch-made versions of anything and everything. I especially love making super indulgent guilty pleasures from scratch. They can only get better, right?

When it comes to mac and cheese this means the best cheddar I can find, pure cream, and most importantly homemade macaroni.

The Origins of Macaroni

Have you ever thought about where macaroni originated? Since I started making pasta more often I’ve gained an appreciation for how certain pasta shapes must have developed. For example, I’ll never forget the first time I used the pasta machine and looking down at the long, thin uncut sheets of pasta it my hands it suddenly dawned on me that I was holding lasagna. It was a total revelation.

atlas mercato pasta machine

Lasagna is easy enough to understand, as is spaghetti and fettuccini, but when you consider more elaborate pasta shapes things start to get murkier.

Macaroni isn’t an obvious shape like lasagna or spaghetti. When I decided to make homemade macaroni it occurred to me that I had no idea how to do so. I scoured the internet and YouTube for help. I don’t have an extruder like this so that was out of the question. Luckily, Wikihow came to the rescue.

I don’t know if macaroni emerged spontaneously, the creative ambition of a bored Italian housewife somewhere, or if it came about with the invention of industrial extruders. Whatever the case, making macaroni by hand feels very old world and very traditional.

Macaroni Technique

The method I used was similar to the one described in the Wikihow post.  I made a double batch of my Go-To Pasta Recipe, rolled it out into thin sheets then cut into small roughly 2cm/1inch squares and used a bamboo skewer to roll them into little tubes.

On the one hand, it was tedious and it took a very long time to finish a bowl of macaroni. On the other, it was beautiful. Once I got the technique it was all muscle memory, like knitting. Knitting perfect little pasta jewels that we then got to eat.

Like all fresh pasta boil for up to 3 minutes for al dente. Do not bake in too much cream in the oven for an hour because you will regret wasting so much effort.

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Author

My name is Cristina. I was born in Constanta, Romania and moved to Toronto with my parents aged five. Growing up I spent every summer at my grandparents homestead in rural Romania, which instilled in me a deep and consuming love for traditional culture. Back in Toronto I made friends from every part of the world, which sparked a longstanding love affair with the complex identities and traditions behind the cultures I encounter. For the last three years I've been getting to know American culture living in Royal Oak, Michigan with my Romanian-Canadian husband Bogdan and our American rescue dog Oliver. Culture and identity has been a defining part of my life and I love sharing my explorations in food and culture here. I also write about managing my multiethnic foodie kitchen, sourcing good ingredients, and travel. If you want to connect the best place to find me is Instagram (I'm always online :P)

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