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., February 2021


Credit: Jerrelle Guy

Recipe Summary

15 mins
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.  


Ingredient Checklist


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

  • 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.

  • 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

generous 1 cup
591 calories; fat 38g; cholesterol 104mg; sodium 582mg; carbohydrates 44g; dietary fiber 2g; protein 18g; sugars 2g; niacin equivalents 10mg; saturated fat 23g; vitamin a iu 1250IU.