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Macaroni closeup.jpg
Place of origin Italy (modern macaroni)[1]
Type Pasta
Main ingredient(s) Durum wheat
Homemade macaroni and cheese, with dried herbs and ground pepper
Elbow macaroni die: front view (left), and rear view (right)

Macaroni /ˌmækəˈrni/ is a variety of dry pasta in the shape of narrow tubes[2] originating from Italy[1] and made with durum wheat, usually without egg. It is normally cut in short lengths; if cut in lengths with a curve it is usually called elbow macaroni. Some home machines can make macaroni shapes but, like most pasta, macaroni is usually made commercially by large-scale extrusion. The curved shape is caused by different speeds on opposite sides of the pasta tube as it comes out of the machine.

In North America, macaroni most often comes in elbow shape,[citation needed] while in Italy the noun maccheroni refers to straight tubular square-ended pasta corta ("short-length pasta").


The name comes from Italian maccheroni [makkeˈroːni], plural form of maccherone.[2][3] In Italy, the noun has a lot of variants and they sometimes differ from each other because of the texture of each pasta: rigatoni and tortiglioni, for example, have ridges down their length, while chifferi, lumache, lumaconi, pipe, pipette, etc. refer to elbow-shaped pasta similar to macaroni in the American culture.

The academic consensus supports that the word is derived from the Greek μακαρία (makaria),[4] a kind of barley broth which was served to commemorate the dead.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] In turn, that comes from μάκαρες (makares) meaning "blessed dead", and ultimately from μακάριος (makarios), collateral of μάκαρ (makar) which means "blessed, happy".[14]

However, the Italian linguist G. Alessio argues that the word can have two origins. First, from the Medieval Greek μακαρώνεια (makarōneia) "dirge" (stated in sec. XIII by James of Bulgaria), which would mean "funeral meal" and then "food to serve" during this office (see modern Eastern Thrace's μαχαρωνιά - macharōnia in the sense of "rice-based dish served at the funeral"). In which case, the term would be composed of the double root of μακάριος "blessed" and αἰωνίος (aiōnios), "eternally".[15] Second, from the Greek μακαρία "barley broth", which would have added the suffix -one.[16]

In his book Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and their Food (2007), John Dickie instead says that the word macaroni, and its earlier variants like maccheroni, "comes from maccare, meaning to pound or crush."

The Russian language borrowed the word (as Russian: макароны) as a generic term for all varieties of pasta; this also holds for several other Slavic languages, as well as for Turkish, where the word for pasta is makarna.

Culinary use

In addition to dishes similar to those made with other types of pasta, macaroni and cheese is a popular dish in English-speaking countries, often made with elbow macaroni. A sweet macaroni pudding, similar to a rice pudding, is also often made.[17]

In areas with large Chinese populations open to Western cultural influence, such as Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia and Singapore, the local Chinese have adopted macaroni as an ingredient for Chinese-style Western cuisine. In Hong Kong's cha chaan teng ("Tea Restaurant") and Southeast Asia's kopi tiam ("coffee shop"), macaroni is cooked in water and then washed of starch, and served in clear broth with ham or frankfurter sausages, peas, black mushrooms, and optionally eggs, reminiscent of noodle soup dishes. This is often a course for breakfast or light lunch fare.[18]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Maccheroni, History of Maccheroni (it)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oxford Dictionary, Macaroni
  3. Il Devoto-Oli. Vocabolario della lingua italiana, edited by Luca Serianni and Maurizio Trifone, Le Monnier.
  4. μακαρία, (def. III), Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. Macaroni, on Compact Oxford English Dictionary
  6. "Macaroni", Online Etymology Dictionary
  7. Macaroni, on Webster's New World College Dictionary
  8. Andrew Dalby, Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, Routledge, 2003, on Google books
  9. Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder
  10. Dhirendra Verma, Word Origins, on Google books
  11. Mario Pei, The story of language, p.223
  12. William Grimes, Eating Your Words, Oxford University Press, on Google books
  13. Mark Morton, Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities, on Google books
  14. μάκαρ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  15. αἰωνίος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  16. G. Alessio, "Atti dell'Accademia Pontaniana", t. 8, 1958-59, pp. 261-280
  17. macaroni pudding
  18. AP, Explore the world of Canto-Western cuisine, January 8, 2007

External links