600 types of pasta

V: I am going to the shop to buy some pasta

Me: But we already have a lot of pasta in the kitchen

V: Yes, but not tortellini!!

As a girl, my mother only made pasta when she was tired because it was a simple meal to prepare: pour the water, let it boil with the pasta and add some tomato sauce and veggies. Wrong! 

Living with not one, but three Italians, has taught me to keep my mouth shut when talking about pasta, because ignorance would be punished! There’s a lot of things I didn’t know and will never ever understand, things that only an Italian could get.

Apparently there’s a different ingredient for each kind of pasta, which goes with a different sauce. Also a different way to cook it, and last but not least, your type of pasta should be eaten depending on the season. Basic.

Take for instance, the Gnocchi. The little potato balls of pasta. They must be boiled, then mixed with tomato sauce and cheese, and put in the oven. As this is a heavy dish, is better for the winter and cold days. It makes sense!  But what doesn’t make sense, is having two full kitchen shelves full of different kinds of pasta:

  • fusilli (the screws)
  • penne (the little tubes)
  • spaghetti (the one from “The lady and the tramp)
  • farfalle (little bow ties)
  • bucati (the chord of the old telephone)
  • tagliatelle (flattened spaguetti)
  • pappardelle (even bigger tagliatelle)
  • linguine (fat spaguetti)
  • tortellini (stuffed squares)

And the one the looks like a wheel, or like a shell or a star, the fat penne, the skinny spaguetti and many many more. One should be mixed with meatballs, other with peas, or courgettes, prawns, oysters,beans, cheese, pumpkins… And sauces! tomato, cream, pesto, and a lot more. Just don’t ask me which ingredient belongs to which pasta! 😉

In the old days, the ‘single days’, if I had just a little bit of two pastas, I would make them together, usually fusilli and penne. If Italians would have had a guillotine instead of the French, it would be to punish people that mixed two kinds of pasta like I did. So that’s now part of my dark past, and something that I don’t really want to be known. Is irrational and totally against the law.

So next time you have an Italian guest for dinner, don’t break the rules and follow these tips:

1. Tubes
Tubular shapes like penne and rigatti are good for hearty, thick sauces like ragu.

2. Ribbons
Wide, flat pastas like pappardelle are ideal for sopping up creamy sauces.

3. Rods
Long, round pastas like spaghetti are best with olive oil- and tomato-based sauces, which coat each strand evenly.

4. Shapes
Chunky vegetable sauces go better with short pastas to trap the sauce.

Life with an Italian


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