Älplermagronen is quite simply the Swiss, and original version of macaroni & cheese. This traditional creamy cheese macaroni dish combines pasta with potatoes, cheese and cream topped with caramelized onions and applesauce in a beautiful way making for a hearty, delicious and filling meal. The dish, which translates to ‘Alpine herder’s macaroni’, is a staple on Swiss restaurant menus from Appenzell to Interlaken to Zermatt due the country’s long history and love for the dish. Especially Americans love to claim macaroni and cheese as their own invention but all historical clues point to the Swiss Alps as the place of origin for this yummy, cheesy dish.
Älplermagronen, Swiss Macaroni and Cheese
Its the combination of the savoury macaroni pasta, the creaminess of the cheesey sauce and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and apple sauce that makes the Älplermagronen Swiss staple an absolutely amazing pasta dish that is hard to resist.
You can imagine tucking into Älplermagronen after a long day of hiking in the Alps or hitting the ski slopes to reenergize, warm your cockles and stuff that empty belly. This yummy comfort food is, after cheese fondue, the most popular traditional dish in Switzerland, because it is so comforting. It is a dish that tastes even better when you earned it by hiking up a mountain, a day of exploring the Swiss Alps through a rubber duck treasure hunt, a game of Interlaken urbanXgolf or some fun winter (night) sledding.
The history of Alpine Macaroni, the Swiss Mac & Cheese
Although the Americans, Italians and the French have a deep connection with macaroni cheese, it is actually the Swiss who invented it (just like cheese fondue was a – very controversial – invention by them)
The earliest published record of this Swiss Mac & Cheese dates back to the 1400s where it mentions the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, Ticino, as the place where macaroni originated.
Älplermagronen derives its name from the word “Älpler” meaning Alp or mountain and “magronen” meaning (elbow) macaroni or macaroni. The elbow macaroni is used for this dish is shaped like the horns of Switzerland’s native mountain goats, chamois and ibex. The creaminess of this alpine macaroni comes from local (often Gruyere) Swiss mountain cheese, a staple in Switzerland much longer than any other nation. It is also mentioned by historians that Älplermagronen was named so because the shepherds living on the Alps had to carry their food up the mountains and due to its light weight pasta was one of their preferred staples. Therefore it literally is a Alp macaroni
“Älplermagronen got its name because the shepherds who lived on the alp with their cows had to carry up all their own food. Dry pasta is light to carry; cheese [the shepherd] made himself. So here in Switzerland, there’s a logistical reason behind this simple dish.”Paul Imhof, author and food historian of Das Kulinarische Erbe der Schweiz, a five-volume set of books on the history of Swiss cuisine published in 2017.
Älplermagronen, called ‘Macaroni du Chalet’ in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland comes in slightly different version in the differing Swiss cantons but its warm, filling, creamy, delicious and restorative powers are omnipresent and a truly natural fit to the Swiss Alps just like its authentic cow bells, gondolas and yodels.