Even non-zucchini-fans have been known to say this dish is delicious!
The word macaroni is from the Italian maccheroni, and dates in English to the 16th century. Italians do bake macaroni and other pastas with cheese, but they don’t make a dish with Cheddar like typical American macaroni & cheese.
A popular theory is that Thomas Jefferson introduced macaroni & cheese to the United States. He was interested in pasta, and sent away to Naples for a macaroni machine. James Hemmings, his slave chef, accompanied Jefferson to France, and made macaroni & cheese after their return.
A different story is that many English aristocrats in the 18th century visited Italy on the grand tour, and returned enamored of Italian food and fashion. The English began cooking macaroni baked with cheese and cream, and then transported this custom to the Americans.
Young English gentlemen who followed the outlandish French and Italian fashions wore pouffy wigs, tiny hats, ruffles and tight pants, and formed London’s Macaroni Club. In the well-known song, Yankee Doodle “stuck a feather in his hat and called it Macaroni”. This was poking fun at Americans who followed the same fashion.
In the US, macaroni and cheese became popular as a cheap, tasty and filling meal. By the 1920’s, it was common in diners. In New York’s Horn & Hardart Automats, a nickel would get you a plate of macaroni & cheese from behind one of the little glass panels.
In 1937, Kraft came out with their boxed Macaroni and Cheese Dinner, ushering in a new generation of this favorite dish.