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Pasta with a Story

Pasta with a Story

Ribbons and wheels, bowties and butterflies — Italy has an infinite cache of pasta shapes, each with its own unique history, texture, and place on the dinner table.

Our chefs always remind us that the pasta should “marry” the sauce: each shape has the perfect saucy match made in pasta heaven. Italian cuisine varies based on each region’s culture and biodiversity, so each ideal pairing is often drawn from the same region’s most available ingredients. Trofie from Liguria are at their spiraled best when served with the seaside region’s fine pesto, while orecchiette’s “little ears” are made to scoop Puglia’s specialty broccoli rabe-sausage combination.

Check out a few of our most unique pasta shapes and their traditional pairings, then bring them home from Eataly! Want to take our little encyclopedia with you? Download the pasta guide here!

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Named after the still-active volcano by the port city of Napoli, Vesuvio is a short curly pasta common to the southern region of Campania. If you squint a little, the squiggly shapes also resemble a shell, representing the sea.

Once you taste the unique pasta, you won’t be surprised that it is made in Gragnano, the birthplace of dry pasta making. The bronze extrusion gives the pasta a textured surface and al dente bite. Each piece has numerous nooks and crannies that pick up chunkier sauces, such as sausage ragùTry our recipe!

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Created in Puglia, orecchiette di grano arso has a hazy secret behind its rich flavors: fire. It’s true. The tradition of making bread and pasta with grano arso – “burnt grain” – reaches back to the days of cucina povera. Literally “poor cooking,” this no-waste style called for every last scrap of ingredient. So, after farmers burned the fields to fertilize the soil for the new planting, the peasants saved any leftover toasted grains, which they ground into a rich, deeply flavorful flour.

While the methods have changed — bakers and pasta makers toast the flour themselves, rather than scraping the fields — the tradition of using burnt wheat is alive today, giving us this smoky, nutty pasta.

Orecchiette are often paired with broccoli rabe and sausage, a chunky sauce which its “little ears” catch perfectly. Check out our recipe!

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Croxetti — “little crosses” — are round and flat discs of pasta that resemble coins, down to the decorative stamp. Created near Genova in Liguria, this shape was customarily pressed with the royal families’ coats of arms, a tradition that our producers still follow today.

While thin, the pasta is surprisingly al dente, creating satisfying bites to savor. Locals enjoy croxetti with their favorite Ligurian sauce: green beans, potato, and pesto.

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Foglie d'ulivo is a handmade pasta named for the “olive leaves” that it resembles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shape originated in southern Italy, where olive trees are ubiquitous. These ancient, twisted trees are greatly valued and cared for — we get why a pasta maker might consider the leaves a muse!

The versatile shape adapts well to a variety of lighter sauces. For a typical southern Italian pasta, pair with fresh tomato, mozzarella, and a pinch of red pepper.

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Native to Liguria in northern Italy, trofie are twisted, spiral-shaped pasta. Their true saucy love is pesto from Genova, which is made by crushing fresh basil with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, sea salt, and garlic.

The ribbed spirals of the pasta are perfectly designed to pick up the fine consistency of the pesto. This pairing is guaranteed to transport you to the Ligurian seaside, bite after perfect bite. Don't believe us? Make the dish yourself with our recipe!

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An iconic fresh pasta from Piemonte in northern Italy, agnolotti del plin get their name from the regional dialect for “pinch,” which is how you made the pasta. To form each agnolotto, you pinch two sheets of fresh egg pasta dough together, or “fare il plin,” over the traditional filling of veal and pork.

The resulting small pouches of pasta are deeply flavorful. Delicate and rich, this pasta is best highlighted with a simple sage-and-butter sauce, like in this mouthwatering recipe.

agnolotti del plin rizzoli

Want to print this guide for your fridge/wallet/frame on the wall? Download our pasta encyclopedia here! Then, step into the world of pasta at your local Eataly.  

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