Legend has it that upon being served a dish of this food, an early Italian sovereign exclaimed "Ma caroni!" meaning "how very dear." This semolina-and-water pasta does not traditionally contain eggs. Most macaronis are tube-shaped, but there are other forms including shells, twists and ribbons. Among the best known tube shapes are elbow (a short, curved tube); ditalini (tiny, very short tubes); mostaccioli (large, two-inch-long tubes cut on the diagonal, with a ridged or plain surface); penne (large, straight tubes cut on the diagonal); rigatoni (short, grooved tubes); and ziti (long, thin tubes). Most macaronis almost double in size during cooking. The Italian spelling of the word is maccheroni.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.