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Maccheroni is a variety of dry pasta traditionally shaped into narrow tubes, produced in various shapes and sizes. Originating in Italy and made with durum wheat, maccheroni is commonly cut in short lengths; curved maccheroni may be referred to as elbow maccheroni. Some home machines can make maccheroni shapes, but like most pasta, maccheroni is usually made commercially by large-scale extrusion. The curved shape is created by different speeds of extrusion on opposite ends of the pasta tube as it comes out of the machine.
In North America, the word “maccheroni” is often used synonymously with elbow-shaped macaroni, as it is the variety most often used in macaroni and cheese recipes. In Italy, the noun maccheroni refers to straight, tubular, square-ended pasta corta (“short-length pasta”). Maccheroni may also refer to long pasta dishes such as maccheroni alla chitarra and frittata di maccheroni, which are prepared with long pasta like spaghetti.
The name comes from Italian maccheroni, plural form of maccherone. The many variants sometimes differ from each other because of the texture of each pasta: rigatoni and tortiglioni, for example, have ridges down their lengths, while chifferi, lumache, lumaconi, pipe, pipette, etc. refer to elbow-shaped pasta similar to macaroni in the North American culture.
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