Macaroni, Spaghetti, and Vermicelli
When I told a friend about a recipe for macaroni and cheese found in a Philadelphia cookbook dated 1844 she inquired about its shape. I didn’t know. That started a search to find out when macaroni and cheese get adopted by New Englanders and its shape. The title of this page comes from Mrs. Lincoln’s 1884 Boston Cooking School Cook Book.
“These are thick pastes made from wheaten flour mixed with a small quantity of water. They are made to take various shapes by being forced through holes in metallic plates. These plates are arranged over a fire; and the macaroni, as it issues from the holes, is partially baked, and afterward hung to dry over rods. Vermicelli is used in soup and puddings; macaroni and spaghetti as vegetables.”
The term shapes is not clear. Lincoln states, “Macaroni, as frequently prepared, in long pieces” “Macaroni – Break one quarter of a pound of macaroni in three-inch pieces,” “Spaghetti – This is a variety of macaroni about one eighth of an inch in diameter. It is usually served unbroken.” These descriptions show the wheaten paste, what we call pasta, came out in long strands in three different diameters. The same distinction is still used today: Angel Hair, Vermicelli, Spaghetti, etc. are all long strands of varying diameters. However these are variations on the spaghetti aspect not the macaroni aspect. Today macaroni is known by its actual shapes: elbows, shells, etc.
One of the first things for cook books was to decide what category should macaroni be listed under. Some cook books placed it under “Vegetables” wheat being a plant. One cook book listed it under “Cereals” wheat being a grain product. It was not exactly easy to classify.
The earliest cook book in New England with a recipe for macaroni that included cheese is the 1855 Improved Housewife. It had two Canadian recipes: Montreal Macaroni Pie – a one crust pie filled with cooked macaroni, grated cheese and milk, and baked with an open top. The second was Quebec Macaroni Pudding – a two crust pie filled with cooked macaroni and milk, covered with a top crust and baked.
The 1884 Boston Cooking School Cook Book had several recipes:
A distinction was made between spaghetti which was served in long strands and macaroni which was served in short pieces.
In the 1896 Boston Cooking School Cook Book there are greater distinctions in the recipes. For years some cook books called for baking the macaroni, cheese and milk. Other cook books called mixing the ingredients and serving it. This cook book listed Boiled Macaroni served with cream and re-heated on top of the stove. Baked Macaroni and Baked Macaroni with Cheese was cooked macaroni mixed with white sauce with or without cheese, crumbs on top and baked until brown. As of this edition, Spaghetti is now “usually served with tomato sauce.”
In the past hundred years not much has changed with the exception of the shape of macaroni. Kraft’s Mac n’ Cheese, an instant version, still uses cheese (powdered) mixed with milk, and stirred in with miniature macaroni. Our ancestors called this “Boiled Macaroni”. “Baked Macaroni and Cheese” recipes are in our modern cook books.
Macaroni and Cheese, and Spaghetti are All American favorites. New England like other areas in America adopted the recipes from Britain who had adopted them from Italy. This is a quote from the Cook’s Oracle 1836 Edinburgh edition. “The usual mode of dressing it [macaroni] in this country is by adding a white sauce, and Parmesan or Cheshire cheese, and burning it; Or boil Macaroni as directed in the receipt for the Pudding, and serve it quite hot in a deep tureen, and let each guest add grated Parmesan and cold butter, or oiled butter served hot, and it is excellent; this is the most common Italian mode of dressing it.” (page 354) The paring up of macaroni and cheese comes to us from Italy.
Macaroni and Cheese or Mac n’ Cheese
No Bake Method
In a sauce pan make 2 cups Thin White Sauce
Spaghetti, Tomato Sauce or Spaghetti Sauce, and Meatballs
½ pound ground beef (Hamburg)
Mix thoroughly and form into 1½ inch diameter balls, carefully drop into hot spaghetti sauce Cook 1 hour on a simmer (low boil)
Spaghetti Sauce / Tomato Sauce
In a sauce pan:
Heat to boiling, turn heat down to simmer. Add raw meatballs. Cook on a simmer for 1 hour.
Spaghetti, Thin Spaghetti, Vermicelli, or Angel Hair