Pasta is beloved by college students, picky eaters, and gastronomic gourmands alike. There is almost no culinary situation in which pasta will go amiss. This ancient dish has been a worldwide staple for so long that there is no consensus as to the origin of the dish itself. However, pasta, as opposed to other similar noodles like Greece’s orzo, is generally used to describe traditional Italian noodles.
Specifically, Italian noodles that are made from unleavened dough consisting of ground wheat and water or eggs. However, even with this incredibly narrow definition, there is still centuries worth of pasta variety within Italy. Therefore, it is unsurprising that each Italian region has its own unique shapes that tell the story of the area.
Are you ready to know where your favorite pasta shapes hail from?
Legend has it that tortellini was invented in a tavern in the small town of Castelfranco Emilia. This village, located between the gastronomic giants of Bologna and Modena, was said to be visited by the goddess Venus herself. It was during her visit that an innkeeper saw her undressing through a keyhole and was inspired to create a filled pasta as a reminder or the perfect beauty of her naval.
Clearly the nameless innkeeper did well because the popular beauty of this noodle has yet to go out of style.
Naples comes from the region of Campania, which is basically the capital of pasta. Among other things, Naples was home to the first pasta machine and the four-pronged fork, which helped make enjoying pasta even more accessible to the masses. Mixed in with their technological advancements, Naples also came up with the ubiquitous penne shape.
The way this pasta is cut serves three purposes:
1. The tubular shape of these noodles makes them great for heavy duty tomato or meat-based sauces because they can hold a whole lot of creamy goodness inside.
2. Penne can be ridged or un-ridged. The ridged version of these noodles was created to allow for maximum sauce transportation from plate to mouth. The smooth version was meant to allow only the perfect drizzle of olive oil or pesto to coat each individual noodle.
3. The way this pasta is cut at an angle is meant to echo the shape of a quill, hence its name. This may have been to make those who consumed penne feel like a part of the intellectual set. Who actually knows?
This tightly twisted and uneven noodle shape originated in the Tuscan and Romagna regions and comes with a dark history. Way back when, priests were entitled to eat their fill for free in any restaurant or household in the land.
So naturally, when they were eating out, they ate to their hearts content causing inn keepers and restaurant owners to begin to joke that they hoped the priests would choke on the unwieldily pasta from the first course before they could make it to the more expensive second course.
Hence the name of this hard to swallow pasta – strozzapreti or priest strangler.
Also known as bow-tie pasta, this noodle originated in the 1500’s in the northern Italian region of Emilio-Romagna.
This hearty noodle has since become a favorite in any household where pasta is used in a wide variety of dishes.
Orecchiette originated in the heel of Italy’s boot or Puglia. In fact, this wonderfully original noodle is still handmade on the streets of this region.
The genius of this noodle lies within the functionality of its form. With its hollow middle and bowl-like shape, this noodle is absolutely essential to have in the kitchen of those who are die-hard sauce fanatics.
Again the pasta powerhouse of Naples rescued generations of humans by coming up with the indispensable spaghetti noodle shape.
Since its creation, this particular shape has been used in everything from traditional pasta marinara to cold noodle salad and everything in between.
The noodles that build this ultimate comfort dish are actually one of the oldest forms out there. There are even tales of the Romans eating lasagna noodles!
However, the lasagna that we know today actually originated in Naples with the introduction of tomatoes into the Italian diet in the 1800’s. Thank goodness for those early explorers who brought this new world vegetable back to their old world homes!