Vermicelli and Cheese
Katie Maxwell, Visitor Services Coordinator
This 1802 recipe, developed by Lewis Fresnaye, a vermicelli manufacturer can be found on page 29 of 35 Receipts from “The Larder Invaded” by William Woys Weaver. I love macaroni and cheese in its myriad forms: stovetop, baked, box, scratch, with or without add-ins, so I’m pretty interested in the 19th-century version. Dr. Weaver states on page 28,
Anyone who makes this will immediately recognize it as the ancestor of that ubiquitous American dish called ‘macaroni and cheese,’ only Fresnaye’s recipe is infinitely better.
A bold claim. Let’s get started.
3 qts. water
1 lb vermicelli broken into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tblsp. butter
6 oz. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Parmesan isn’t really a melty cheese; I wonder how this will work. I’m hoping for something like alfredo.
Add the salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the tablespoon of butter then the broken vermicelli
I realized just now that I forgot to add the tablespoon of butter to the water.
Boil gently until tender (al dente). Drain but do not rinse in cold water.
Not sure why I would rinse cooked pasta.
Lightly butter a shallow, 9 x 14 inch baking dish, fill it with vermicelli and pat down evenly with a spoon.
You may have noticed that my vermicelli noodles are a little thicker than most. There is a simple reason for that. They were the only rice noodles at the grocery store this week.
Spread the grated cheese over the top.
So we’re not mixing the cheese with the noodles. Interesting.
Melt the butter
By the way, four ounces is an entire stick of butter.
and pour it zig-zag fashion over the cheese to distribute it evenly.
Behold the zig-zag!
Bake in an oven preheated to 375°F for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is toasted. Yield: 8-10 servings.
I can’t help but notice that the cheese is supposed to be “toasted,” nothing about “melted.”
Looks pretty, though.
NOTE: This is best served piping hot with salt and plenty of freshly grated pepper. Chopped herbs may be scattered over the top after it comes from the oven.
Sweet basil is an obvious choice.
I don’t have any basil, so I’m using parsley. I think it works, now I just need to try it.
Well, this definitely isn’t macaroni and cheese. The cheese did not melt into the noodles, so it is more like buttery noodles with a parmesan topping. Very, very buttery noodles. Once I get over the fact that it isn’t macaroni and cheese (and not like fettuccine alfredo either), it’s pretty tasty. Although, I have to say I prefer my own macaroni and cheese recipes, sorry Mr. Fresnaye.
Next time, a return to deserts with Indian Pound Cake.