Macaroni is a product of wheat prepared from a hard, clean, glutenous grain. The grain is ground into a meal called semolina, from which the bran is excluded. This is made into a tasty dough by mixing with hot water in the proportion of two thirds semolina to one third water. The dough after being thoroughly mixed is put into a shallow vat and kneaded and rolled by machinery. When well rolled, it is made to assume varying shapes by being forced by a powerful plunger through the perforated head of strong steel or iron cylinders arranged above a fire, so that the dough is partially baked as it issues from the holes.
It is afterwards hung over rods or laid upon frames covered with cloth, and dried. It is called by different names according to its shape. If in the shape of large, hollow cylinders, it is macaroni; if smaller in diameter, it is spaghetti; if fine, vermicelli; if the paste is cut into fancy patterns, it is termed pasta d'Italia. Macaroni was formerly made only in Italy, but at present is manufactured to a considerable extent in the United States.
Good macaroni will keep in good condition for a long time. It is rough, elastic, and hard; while the inferior article is smooth, soft, breaks easily, becomes moldy with keeping. Inferior macaroni contains a large percentage of starch, and but a small amount of gluten. When put into hot water, it assumes a white, pasty appearance, and splits in cooking. Good macaroni when put into hot water absorbs a portion of the water, swells to nearly double its size, but perfectly retains its shape. It contains a much smaller amount of gluten.
Do not wash macaroni. Break into pieces of convenient size if it is long. Always put to cook in boiling liquid, taking care to have plenty of water in the saucepan (as it absorbs a large quantity), and cook until tender. The length of time required may vary from twenty minutes, if fresh, to one hour if stale. When tender, turn into a colander and drain, and pour cold water through it to prevent the tubes from sticking together. The fluid used for cooking may be water, milk, or a mixture of both; also soup stock, tomato juice, or any preferred liquid.
Macaroni serves as an important adjunct to the making of various soups, and also forms the basis of other palatable dishes.
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