La Mia Pasta….

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”, said William Shakespeare in  Romeo and Juliet. Well, I would agree and disagree with both. Those of you who have visited Italy or have got an exposure to Italian food would be in the same frame of mind. There are nearly  300 plus varieties of pastas and they have those many names! I would agree with Shakespeare that call it by whatever name,  pastas are to die for!  At the same time when paired with a sauce and filled with a stuffing, each pasta dish is unique in itself.

Have you ever wondered why there would be so many different varieties of pastas? According to me the reason would be that different pasta shapes hold different sauces better.  For example, thinner pastas go better with thin sauces, where as thicker pastas might require heavier sauces. Flat pastas go better with cream based sauces whereas tomato based sauces are more popular with rounded pastas. And then there are stuffed pastas as well.

In my opinion, pastas can be broadly organised into different groups:

  1. Long or strands
  2. Tubular
  3. Stuffed
  4. Special Shapes
  5. Ribbon
  6. Micro

Most pastas will fall under one of these categories. It is impossible to cover all 300 plus varieties in this write up. So I will try to cover the major or the more popular ones.

  1. Long or strands
    Spaghetti – The most popular one in this category is the spaghetti. Spago means twine in Italian. Spaghettoni is the thicker variety and spaghettini is the thinner one. All the three types of pasta taste great with tomato sauce or simply tossed with olive oil, garlic butter and parmesan cheese.
    Vermicelli – This pasta is thicker than spaghetti.  Vermicelloni is the thicker version. They are served with light oil based or thin creamy sauces. Vermicelli means little worms in Italian
    Capellini – This is thinner than vermicelli and means fine hair in Italian. Capellini D’ Angelo is the thinner version and means angel hair
    .-Barbina – This is a type of strand pasta like capellini but available in coiled nest shape.
  2. Tubular
    -Bucatini – This is a thick spaghetti like pasta with a hole running through the centre. Buco means hole running through the centre. Perciatelli is thicker bucatini.
    -Cannelloni – These are large stuff able tubes of pasta.
    -Penne – This pasta literally means tip of a pen. It is great with both tomato as well as cream based sauces. Penne with ridged sides is called penne rigate and the one with smooth sides is called penne lisce. Penne Zita is the larger version and pennette is the short thin version. Mezze penne is the shorter version and is also called the half pen.
    -Rigatoni – These are tube shaped pastas of varying lengths and diameters and are larger than penne. They have ridges running down their lengths and hence the name rigatoni. They are slightly curved and ends are cut  straight instead of diagonally like penne.
    -Ziti – This looks like narrow and long hose like tubes. Zitoni is the wider version.-Macaroni – This is a very popular elbow pasta. Most popular dish is Mac and cheese.

  3. Stuffed
    -Ravioli – This is a double layered filled pasta either in a square or round shape. The classic filling is spinach ricotta cheese. It is a very popular pasta in fine dine restaurants
    .-Tortellini – These are ring shaped or navel shaped pasta dumplings, usually served in a broth
    .-Mezzelune – These are half moon shaped pastas with a crimped border.
    -Fagottini  – These are filled pouch or purse shaped pastas
    -Pansotti – They are traingular shaped pastas.-Cannelloni – These are filled pasta tubes.
    -Manicotti – are ridged pasta tubes

  4. Special Shapes
    -Gnocchi – This pasta is made from potato in a classic shape of indentation on one side and serrations on the other.
    -Campanelle – is a bell shaped pasta with frilly edge on one side
    .-Conchiglie – is a seashell shaped pasta. Conchiglioni are larger stuffable seashells
    .-Farfalle – are bow tie or butterfly shaped pasta
    -Fusilli – are spiral pasta named after fucile meaning rifle. Fusilli bucati is the holed version.
    -Rotelle – is a wagon wheeled shaped pasta.-Orcchiette – is a bowl or ear shaped pasta.

  5. Ribbon
    -Fettucine – This is a flat ribbon pasta which are less wider than tagliatelle.
    -Tagliatelle – This flat ribbon pasta is wider than fettucine.
    -Linguine – This is also a ribbon pasta but not as flat as fettuccine and has an elliptical cross-section.
    -Lasagne – This is a broad ribbon pasta generally with fluted edges. The longer version is called lasagnotte and narrower version is called lasagnette. It is generally made as a layered pasta and baked.
    -Pappardelle is a thick flat ribbon pasta.
    -Pizzocheri is also a ribbon pasta but made from buckwheat instead of flour, unlike all of the above pastas.
  6. Micro
    These are generally used in soups.
    -Acini de Pepe are bead like pasta
    -Anelli is the ring shaped pasta
    -Orzo is rice shaped pasta.
    -Ditali is small tubes
    -Farfalline is small bow tie shaped pasta

    Phew! Thats a lot, isn’t it? Some of these can be made fresh and some are machine made and dried. Fresh pasta made from dough is called pasta fresca. Depending on the which region of Italy, pasta fresca can be made with flour and eggs or semolina and water. The special shaped pastas are usually machine made dried pastas called pasta secca. The hallmark of a good pasta is that it has to cook fast and hold on to the sauce. That is the reason pasta fresca tastes better than pasta secca. Let me reiterate here, pasta dishes taste divine when there is a perfect marriage between the pasta and the sauce in which it is served. General rule of thumb is thicker the pasta, thicker or heavier the sauce and thinner the pasta, thinner or lighter the sauce.

    Frederico Fellini, the famous Italian film director, once said that life is a combination of magic and pasta. So are you going to create that magic by choosing the right sauce and filling for the pasta of your choice?

Photos are courtesy internet