Before you launch that low-cal routine, spend some quality time with the just-released "Macaroni & Cheese," by Marlena Spieler ($16.95 paperback, Chronicle Books). It's written in a not-so-serious style, yet remains respectful of the dish's iconic status.
There are 50 certifiably different recipes, some stove-top quick and some meltingly baked with alluring names such as Macarrones alla Malaguena (a Spanish take that uses red bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, chorizo, peas, green beans and briny green olives) and Happiness Macaroni With Ham, Peas and Many Cheeses (the version that inspired Spieler to write the book).
The first written recipe for the dish, she tells us, appeared in "The Experienced English Housekeeper" in 1769. Thomas Jefferson featured macaroni and cheese countless times at his Monticello table, and it's been comforting Americans ever since.