Monticello's Macaroni


This is the macaroni and cheese recipe that would have been made in the kitchens at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Jefferson first became familiar the creamy, cheesy baked dish of macaroni from his time in Paris and it was enslaved cooks, James Hemings, Peter Hemings, Edith Hern Fossett and Frances Gillette Hern, who prepared this favorite dish over the years. The popularization of this iconic American dish can be traced to Black cooks, like Peter Fossett (the freed son of Edith Hern Fossett), Rufus Estes and Freda De Knight, who helped spread the dish throughout the United States. Learn more about Macaroni and Cheese at Monticello.

A dish of baked macaroni and cheese
Photo: Jerrelle Guy
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

This recipe is part of our series, Migration Meals: How African American Food Transformed the Taste of America. During the Great Migration, millions of African Americans left the South and settled in the rest of the United States, bringing rich culinary traditions with them—sweet potato pie, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, barbecue and so much more.


  • 4 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ½ cups whole milk, divided

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni

  • 3 cups shredded mild Cheddar cheese or a mixture of Colby and Cheddar

  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

  2. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and 2 cups milk. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook, stirring frequently so the liquid doesn't boil over, until the liquid is mostly absorbed and pasta is very soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain.

  3. Transfer half of the cooked macaroni to the prepared baking dish. Top with half the cheese and dot with half the butter. Repeat with the remaining pasta, cheese and butter. Drizzle the remaining ½ cup milk over the top. Cover with foil and bake until hot and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

591 Calories
38g Fat
44g Carbs
18g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 591
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 44g 16%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 18g 36%
Total Fat 38g 49%
Saturated Fat 23g 115%
Cholesterol 104mg 35%
Vitamin A 1250IU 25%
Sodium 582mg 25%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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