In fact, that classic American dish -- mac n' cheese -- has had a number of guises. It was surprising to me to learn that it's been around since at least 1847, when it was published in a recipe titled "To Dress Macaroni a la Sauce Blanche" in The Carolina Housewife by a Lady of Charleston. The story goes that the dish arrived in the south long before the Italian immigration to northern cities because our man in Europe, Thomas Jefferson, brought notes on Italian pasta-making and samples of Parmesan back to Virginia.
The recipe, which you can read here, is a heavy on the sauce. The pasta and cheese must have been luxuries and they would have had dairy coming out their ears. My roommate Jane, acting as my lovely sous chef, doubled the pasta and Parmesan and reduced the butter, milk, and cream by half. The result was a really fantastic classic baked macaroni and cheese -- what some people call a "macaroni pie" -- that had the levity of a souffle.
Old-fashioned Macaroni and Cheese