Macaroni is a type of hollow, tubular pasta made with Durum wheat, which makes it a thicker, more resilient type of pasta. It typically does not contain egg, and is generally mass produced rather than being made at home, because the extruder machine used to make the hollow pasta is very difficult to use and to clean. The word "macaroni" comes from the Italian word "maccheroni," which in Italy does not just refer to the small, elbow-shaped pasta that is most common in the United States, but to many other types of tubular pasta, such as penne or ziti.
Small elbow macaroni is what is usually being referred to when one says "macaroni," however. This small pasta may be eaten on its own with a simple cheese sauce, in the popular American dish known as macaroni and cheese, or "mac and cheese." It is also a popular addition to casseroles as well as soups, where it adds additional texture and weight to the dish. Because this pasta is thicker, it is also a good choice for a variety of sauces, and may be used with a thick tomato sauce, or even a thinner sauce because it will be able to absorb and retain the flavors of the sauces.
Macaroni generally takes just a few minutes to cook in boiling water; it is best to toss the pasta with sauce immediately so it does not become sticky after cooking. If no sauce is immediately available, toss the pasta with a small bit of butter or olive oil. Some types of this pasta are made with other types of flour or vegetable seasonings to add additional or different flavors to dishes; tri-colored pasta is often a popular choice for a summer pasta salad, for example. It is often flavored with spinach or tomato flavors. When using this type of pasta for a pasta salad, it is best to leave it slightly undercooked, or al dente, so that it can absorb the liquid from the pasta salad without becoming soggy.
In addition, macaroni is often a popular choice for crafts projects for children; again, because the uncooked pasta is resilient and holds up well. It is typically sold in small boxes, but may be purchased in bulk as well. This type of pasta is a good choice for many dishes because it is popular with kids as well as adults, it is bite size, easy to cook, and pairs well with all sorts of vegetables, sauces, and meats such as sausage or meatballs.