According to my Italian dictionary, maccherone (singular of maccheroni) indicates a type of pasta shaped as a long tube with a diameter larger than bucatino (singular of bucatini); in some regions, maccherone refers to spaghetto (singular of spaghetti), bucatino, etc. The word maccherone has a long history — as you can read on The History of Macaroni by Clifford Wright — during which it not always referred to the same pasta shape as today.
Come il cacio sui maccheroni (literally, like cheese on macaroni) is a popular Italian expression used to describe somethig that is just about perfect.
This week, I am hosting Presto Pasta Nights, so I thought it would be a good time to share a sequence of an Italian movie that has maccheroni as protagonist. In Un americano a Roma (An American in Rome, 1954), Italian comic actor Alberto Sordi plays Nando, a young man fixated with everything American (or his idea of it, as we will see in the case of food). Sordi received honorary citizenship from Kansas City, Missouri, for his references to the city in the movie: being a policeman there is part of Nando's American dream.
In the most famous scene of the movie, we see him getting home late at night (he still lives with his parents) and finding a plate of maccheroni ready for him on the table. Nando speaks mostly Roman dialect, so he says maccaroni.
The sequence shows Nando disparaging the maccheroni and the fiasco di vino rosso (flask of red wine) on the table. He speaks loud enough for his parents to hear him from their bedroom: "Io non magno maccaroni. Io sono americano... Io non bevo vino rosso. Lo sapete che io sono americano. Gli americani non bevono vino rosso, non magnano maccaroni." (I don't eat macaroni. I am American... I don't drink red wine. You know that I am American. Americans don't drink red wine, they don't eat macaroni.)
He proceeds to substitute the wine with milk, and the heaping plate of pasta with a slice of bread on top of which he first spreads some marmelata (marmellata is actually Italian for jam) then some yogurt and finally some mostarda (he means mustard, which in Italian is senape; Italian mostarda is a different condiment). All the while, he mocks the plate of maccheroni: "Mi sembri un verme, maccarone." (you look like a worm ). He does the substitution convinced that that's what Americans eat and what makes them strong: "Questa è robba 'e magnano i Americani, vedi?, robba sana, sostanziosa." (See, that's what Americans eat: healthy, nourishing stuff.)
However, when Nando takes the first bite of his American meal, his reaction is outright disgust. He quickly changes the arrangement on the table: he gives the milk to the cat (gatto) and the yogurt to the mouse (sorcio in dialect), while the mustard goes to eliminate the cimici (bedbugs) — an unfair treatment, to be sure.
His final sentence is: maccarone, m'hai provocato e io te distruggo, adesso, maccarone, io me te magno (you provoked me and now I'll destroy you, I'm going to eat you). Once an Italian, always an Italian.
That's Renato Carosone's message in his famous song from 1956 Tu vuò fa l'americano. The refrains says: "You're acting all American... but you were born in Italy. Listen here: there's nothing you can do" (the wikipedia article has a translation of the lyrics, which are written in Neapolitan dialect and on YouTube you can see Carosone and his band and listen to this great song).
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the maccherone audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]