One of the worst mistakes tourists make in Italy is ordering a dish of macaroni and cheese, thinking they’re in for the treat of an authentic take on their favourite pasta dish, only to find the waiter frowning and eyebrows raised. “Eh?” Origins series: the stories behind our favourite dishes View this post on Instagram A post shared by MŌPA • VEGGIE FOOD • PARIS (@mopa_restaurant) on Mar 5, 2020 at 1:13am PST Mac and cheese doesn’t even exist in Italy. Italians would never add milk mixed with spices to pasta. The cheeses used as a pasta topping or as an ingredient are usually Parmigiano, pecorino sheep cheese or Gorgonzola. There’s no cheddar in Italy. And no macaroni either. View this post on Instagram A post shared by New York Food Sharings (@nyfoodsharings) on Mar 3, 2020 at 8:34am PST Macaroni is a twisted Italian-sounding term for maccheroni, a type of short, tubelike pasta often with ridges and larger than the one used in mac and cheese, which is curly and smooth. How did pizza come to be and what do chefs think of pineapple topping? So where does this dish come from? It’s a hybrid. Surprisingly, it does have distant Italian roots but it’s considered a British and American dish, says food historian Anna Maria Pellegrino, a member of the Italian Academy of Cuisine. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jamie and Jonathan (@wickedfoodiemaven) on Mar 5, 2020 at 6:30am PST “Macaroni cheese is an Anglo-Saxon twist of a typical Italian dish made with pasta and cheese which was exported to the UK and US by Italian emigrants in the 18th century and then in between the two world wars. They held on tight to their culinary habits, but at some point adapted and contaminated the dish with the local ingredients they found in those new countries, twisting also the maccheroni original shape and eventually changing the recipe”. In the US, mac and cheese became so popular as a fast food it was first canned and shelved in supermarkets in the 1930s. Canned pasta is an abomination for Italian palates. The pasta in the macaroni cheese is boiled beyond any admissible point (Italian pasta is always al dente ), soaked in milk, and then baked in the oven. So it’s twice cooked. Butter, nutmeg and Cheddar cheese are usually added. “Even the way pasta is cooked is a dead serious matter of culinary and cultural clashes. The Anglo-Saxons love it chewy and sticky, we never overcook it. Everything can be adapted to local tastes, but the only Italian trait in macaroni and cheese is the use of dry pasta,” says Claudio Crivellaro, chef at the five-star Abano Grand Hotel located in the luxury thermal destination of Abano Terme. View this post on Instagram Penne ai quattro formaggi #penne #penneaiquattroformaggi #gorgonzola #taleggio#caprino #panna #grana #nocemoscata A post shared by Pietro Renon (@pietro_renon) on Jan 17, 2018 at 6:01am PST The two iconic authentic Italian dishes that inspired macaroni and cheese are penne ai quattro formaggi – short narrow pasta served with four different kinds of cheese – and maccheroni cacio and pepe, or pasta with grated sheep cheese and pepper. Are you brave enough to try these weird Italian foods? Of course, Britons proudly honour it as a traditional recipe featured on many menus as a beloved classic dish born in the UK, while in the US mac and cheese festivals are regularly held across the country. View this post on Instagram A post shared by jehancancook (@jehancancook) on Mar 5, 2020 at 12:41pm PST British food historian Dr Neil Buttery says macaroni cheese has its origins firmly in Britain. It then emigrated to the US and Canada with British settlers, but it wasn’t until the 1930s during the Great Depression that it really became part of American culture. Why do the Russians love ‘slut’ spaghetti? The first British recipe dates back to 1769, though there are earlier traces of a hybrid dish between macaroni, cheese and lasagne already in the 1300s according to Buttery, who claims that in the UK cheese sauce has been eaten with something like pasta for centuries. But travelling further back in time, it all still comes from Italy. Pellegrino says a prototype of history’s first kind of dry pasta was brought to the UK in the Middle Ages by British merchants doing trade along the Mediterranean’s commercial routes. “Macaroni and cheese is a reinterpretation made abroad of an Italian dish to keep alive Italian culinary habits, but it is not an Italian dish nor does it reflect the Mediterranean diet. Though it used to be a rich, elaborate recipe with prestigious ingredients that only prosperous British families could once afford, today it has turned into a comfort food great for kids in the winter,” she adds. Where are Singapore noodles from? How are century eggs made? Are French fries improperly named? And what’s the final verdict on where tikka masala was created? With the Origins series , STYLE delves into the often surprising beginnings of iconic dishes or foods, how they’ve evolved over time and the many ways they’re enjoyed today. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .