One of the first things we do when we go into a new place is to hunt up an Italian macaroni store, as that is the only place where the genuine article is to be found. That made in this country, put up with a foreign label on the package, is inferior.
The Italian pastes come in a great variety of shapes and are named according to the shape. Macaroni, spaghetti and vermicelli are well known; then there are lasagne (broad and flat), rigatoni (large corrugated), da natali, ditali rigati, cannaroni rigati and reginnetti with mostacioli bianchi, soprafini (fine vermicelli), ditalini and acini di pepe-a few of the many. There are some small fine pastes put up in dainty boxes, especially for invalids, that are very delicate and digestible.
Those who have visited macaroni factories in Italy where macaroni is made for exportation, say that everything in connection with the food is neat and clean and that the macaroni is dried in closed rooms entirely removed from the dust of the street. That which travellers see drying by the roadside, exposed to the dust, is from small or private factories for home consumption.
Do not wash or soak it. Break it when necessary and put into perfectly boiling salted water, 8 parts water to I of macaroni. Stir as soon as it is put into the water and often, until it begins to roll up, from the rapid boiling. Keep over a hot fire where it will continue to roll in boiling until well swollen and nearly done, then set back to simmer slowly. When perfectly tender (which will be in from 1/2 to I hour according to the size, age and quality, the better quality taking longer) turn into a colander and when drained, turn cold water over it, or, let it stand in cold water until read}' to use.
When preferred, macaroni may be cooked in just the amount of liquid it will absorb, which will be about 4 times its bulk. It may be cooked sometimes in a rich consommé, sometimes in milk in a double boiler, or in milk and water. It is often partly cooked in water, drained and finished in milk.
The "traditional" way of cooking spaghetti is to put the ends into water and coil it around in the kettle as it softens, cooking in full lengths and eating it the same, but the propriety of this method is questionable. In the first place, its sauce is apt to spatter in the effort to introduce the coil into the mouth, and mastication is sure to be incomplete.
The measurements of macaroni vary according to the size. For a large open variety, a cup and a half will be required where it would take only a cup of a small kind, or of the ordinary pipe-stem macaroni broken into inch lengths.
There is nothing that gives such character to macaroni as to cook a little garlic with it, a very little for some tastes, not more than 1/2 a clove to each cupful, less even, if the macaroni is not to be drained and the cloves are large. We seldom cook any preparation of macaroni without it, and people wonder why our macaroni has such a good taste. Not enough should be used to give a positive garlic flavor.
Pine nuts and sour cream give the cheese flavor. A good quality of macaroni is good without any sauce, just cooked in salted water and eaten slowly with nuts; but it may be served with any desired, tasty sauce. The mushroom sauces, Italian or Boundary Castle are especially delightful with it, but many others are excellent, olive and nut butter, old-fashioned milk gravy, lentil gravy, a good cream sauce, cream of tomato sauce, or any of the nice, meaty flavored sauces, or parsley butter.
Sometimes return macaroni to the fire after draining, and add a little butter, with or without chopped parsley, for those who use butter, or a little milk and butter or a few spoonfuls of cream. Then another time, put this cream or butter macaroni into a vegetable dish and pour a few hot stewed tomatoes over it.