Macaroni is one of those indulgent dishes that is perfect when you are craving a little bit of comfort from what’s on your plate. It is believed that Macaroni Pasta has been around since the 15th century, however, it didn’t become a popular staple until the 1930s, when it was adopted by America during the Great Depression. It became a cheap, easy meal that could be enjoyed by low-income families, once the idea of manufacturing dried pasta with cheese powder was created.
Today, macaroni is served everywhere, from roadside cafes to fine dining establishments. It is an extremely versatile dish that can be prepared in a number of ways, becoming more elaborate depending on the ingredients it is paired with.
Macaroni isn’t the healthiest choice when it comes to traditional pasta, it is high in carbohydrates, low in protein, as well as being quite small so it is easy to overindulge and eat more than you would a larger pasta shell such as penne or rigatoni. Many food companies have come to realise that modern society is more health-conscious, they have created some wonderful breeds of pasta made from lentils, chickpeas, and edamame beans to help satisfy our demand for nutritionally beneficial comfort foods.
There are thought to be around 350 different types of pasta, within that number are an astonishing 6 varieties of macaroni pasta! Each with their own small unique qualities that make them ever so slightly different.
Obviously, we have our well-known standard Macaroni, which are small tubes that can be straight or with a slight bend to them – The perfect accompaniment for this style of pasta is a simple cheese sauce.
Cavatappi has a corkscrew shape which is great for catching finely chopped vegetables or spinach, it is widely used in creamier pasta sauces.
Chifferi is a shorter, wider form of macaroni, often used in tinned macaroni cheese as it can hold a fair amount of sauce on the inside. It is also great to use in pasta salads or soups.
Similar to Chifferi, Gomiti is a small, wide, elbow-shaped macaroni that is great for holding extra sauce within its shell. It is a popular pasta that is perfect for baking – There is a superb eggplant parmesan recipe that uses Gomiti.
Sedani is a large macaroni that has a thick texture, this is a great choice for any dishes that contain meat as it allows the pasta to remain a main component of the meal, rather than it being allowed to disappear into the background.
Stortini is a really small type of macaroni that is perfect for soups. It was initially branded as a children’s pasta and is commonly found in baby foods.
How to Cook Perfect Macaroni
Cooking the perfect macaroni can be fairly simple, however, you must not be afraid to taste raw pasta! It can be quite difficult to tell when your macaroni is cooked, giving it a little nibble during the cooking process will enable you to serve up perfectly soft, chewy, delicious pasta.
To begin the cooking process you will need to boil a large pan of water on fairly high heat, add a good amount of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil to the water – it is untrue that the olive oil stops the pasta from sticking, its purpose is for giving extra flavour to the pasta and to the sublime starchy water that you will be left with at the end, this water is fantastic for adding richness to your pasta sauce.
Once the water is boiling add in the pasta, we recommend between 55-75 grams of pasta per person for a main meal. Once the pasta is in the pan it will need to be stirred occasionally, this is what will stop it from sticking together, or worse, sticking to the bottom of the pan. Dry pasta can take between 8-12 minutes to cook, the timing depends on how much pasta you are cooking, the size of the pasta, and the thickness of the pan you are using. Fresh macaroni will take half that time, it will also rise to the top of the pan once cooked, unlike its dried counterpart.
You may find that during the cooking process, your pan may start to foam and water may begin to spill over the sides. This could be because the pan you have used isn’t quite deep enough for the amount of pasta that has been added, or because the temperature of the hob is too high. If you place a wooden spoon over the top of the pan it will stop the water from cascading onto the flame.
Once the pasta is cooked and you have tasted it to make sure it is done to your liking, it is preferable to add it straight to the pasta sauce using a skimming spoon. If you are wanting to have the pasta cold in a salad, or have not finished making your sauce yet, then it can be drained through a colander – remember to save some of that water though. We find the best way to keep the pasta from sticking should the colander be your preferred method, is to put it back into the pan once drained, add either a tablespoon of butter or olive oil, then give it a good mix.
Serving Your Macaroni
There are an overwhelming amount of sauce, soup, and salad recipes that all start with a simple bag of macaroni. Many of them start with a white sauce, which is just flour, butter, and milk boiled together in a pan. You can add anything you like to this sauce to create a beautiful meal, our favourite is cheddar cheese, garlic, and slow-cooked gammon.
Macaroni is commonly found in Egyptian dishes, Kushari is a fantastic way to use up any leftover pasta, alongside lots of other little components that many of us have lying around in the cupboard.
We tend to only think of macaroni as a savoury dish, however, it is slowly creeping into the dessert world, paired with sultanas and rich vanilla, it makes a wonderful, light, alternative pudding.
This versatile pasta has even had a makeover by diet industries, allowing people to now make creamy, cheesy macaroni sauce from carrots.