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     Different Cuts for Different Cooks:
     A Guide to Pasta Shapes

       excerpted from  Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More Copyright © 2003 by Ari Weinzweig

    I once asked a pasta maker which cuts he would recommend for soup. His immediate answer: 'Which kind of soup?' A recent survey of Italian pastas counted something like five hundred cuts. Italians take their shape selection pretty seriously. Here's a quick guide to matching cuts with appropriate sauces:

    • Generally, long, thick styles like spaghetti are associated with strong- flavored sauces: olive oil and garlic, tomato, cheese. Long, hollow noodles like bucatini or pici might be paired with spicy sauces. Long, thin pastas like linguine or even angel hair would marry well with more delicate sauces, often those made with seafood.

    • Short, hollow shapes like penne or macaroni are meant for meat or vegetable sauces; solid bits and pieces of the sauce will collect inside the tubes, integrating pasta and sauce. Very short pastas are a good match for sauces with dried peas, lentils, or beans. Flat pastas like farfalle (bow ties) are a good match for cream or cheese-based sauces.

    • Tiny, short shapes are ideal for soup. The general guideline: the lighter the soup, the smaller the pasta. For broth, go with shapes like anellini, stellini, acini, or orzo. Chunkier thick soups need bigger shapes, such as tubetti, ditalini, or maybe even macaroni. For all soups, add the pasta at the end so it won't overcook.

    ACINI DI PEPE 'Peppercorn' pasta, well suited for broth.

    ANELLINI Tiny pasta rings for soup. Cannelloni Rectangles of pasta wrapped around assorted fillings and then baked.

    CAPELLINI Very thin angel hair. Lidia Bastianich, the superb chef-owner of Felidia in New York, gave me this tip: 'Take them out when they're still almost stiff, drain them, add a bit of oil, toss, and then finish them for a minute in the sauce. Otherwise they turn into mush.'

    CASARECCI A typical pasta of Puglia. The name, meaning 'home style,' refers to two-inch-long thin twists.

    CONCHIGLIE Pasta shells, well suited to sauces made with meat and/or cut vegetables.

    CORZETTI A specialty of Liguria, these pasta shapes look like stamped coins from ancient times.

    DITALINI Little thimbles, good for vegetable soups.

    FARFALLE Butterflies, or bow ties, very nice with cream sauces.

    FEDELINI Another long, thin shape. The name is from fedele, meaning 'faithful,' or filo, meaning 'thread' or 'wire.'

    FETTUCCINE A fettuccia is a tape or a ribbon. Narrower than the northern tagliatelle.

    FREGOLA A unique Sardinian pasta made from a dough of coarsely ground semolina that is rubbed into small round balls (about the size of Israeli couscous). It's lightly toasted, so it has an interesting nutty flavor. In Sardinia, it's used in soups and stews (often with clams), as well as baked with tomato sauce.

    FUSILLI Although the name is common, the cut seems to be different in every area of Italy. Some are long, curly corkscrews; others are half-inch-long pig-tail twists. Good for cream sauces.

    LASAGNE Broad, flat rectangles.

    LASAGNOTTE Wide ribbons that are typical of Puglia. The Pugliese break them into two- to three-inch pieces for cooking, then serve them with a strong sauce, like rabbit sauce, or a vegetable sauce of onions, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh ricotta.

    LINGUINE Flat spaghetti. The name means 'little tongues.' A classic with clam sauce.

    LUMACHE 'Snails,' good for sauces with moderately sized pieces of meat or vegetables. The snail shape collects the sauce.

    MACCHERONI About two-inch-long hollow pastas. In the United States the name 'macaroni' has come to mean all pasta. In seventeenth-century London, the term 'macaroni' was used to refer to the avant garde, who regularly indulged in pasta as well as other imported luxury foods. Over time, the term came into use as slang for anything of exaggerated elegance, like the feather in Yankee Doodle's cap.

    MALLOREDDUS Half-inch-long ridged Sardinian pastas that look a bit like small worms. Also known on the island as 'gnocchi,' though they are nothing like actual gnocchi.

    ORECCHIETTE 'Little ears,' the most typical of all Pugliese pastas.

    ORECCHIETTE MARITATE 'Married' orecchiette. A Pugliese blend of casarecci (long and thin) and orecchiette (round), which consummate their 'marriage' in the pot when you cook them together.

    ORZO 'Barley seeds,' used for soups or pasta salads.

    PAGLIA E FIENO 'Straw and hay,' used to denote green (spinach) and yellow (egg) noodles mixed together. Good with cream or tomato sauces.

    PAPPARDELLE Broad egg noodles that are big with game meats, like hare or wild boar.

    PENNE Macaroni cut like quills, or pens. Good with meat, cream, and vegetable sauces.

    PEZZOCCHERI Buckwheat pasta from the Valtellina in the north of Lombardy. Traditionally a winter dish, served with cabbage, potatoes, and garlic, all mixed together and baked with cheese.

    QUADRUCCI Tiny pasta squares, used primarily for soups.

    SAGNE Long Pugliese pasta, shaped like ribbons wrapped around a rod or candle.

    SPAGHETTI The most famous pasta. The name comes from spago, meaning 'string' or 'cord'; spaghetti means 'little strings.' Good with tomato and olive oil–based sauces.

    SPAGHETTINI Thin spaghetti.

    SPAGHETTONI Very thick spaghetti that is made into two-foot-long strands that are usually broken up before cooking. Typically served in Puglia with olive oil and fresh garlic.

    STELLINI 'Little stars,' used in broth.

    TAGLIATELLE The name is from tagliare, meaning 'to cut.' The Bolognese serve it with prosciutto and other meat sauces.

    TROFIE Small twists of pasta, a bit like two-inch pieces of twine folded in half, then gently (never tightly) twisted. The preferred Ligurian pasta for pesto.

    VERMICELLI Literally 'little worms,' they are essentially like spaghetti or spaghettini.

    ZITI Neapolitan macaroni. Ziti means 'groom,' and this pasta is typically served in Naples as a first course at weddings.


    Calphalon Stainless Pasta Fork
    Calphalon Stainless Pasta Fork Calphalon Nylon Utensils feature a unique "grip-anywhere handle" that lets you decide where to hold it. Crafted from 18/10 stainless steel with heat-resistant soft-touch silicone accents, these utensils give you a perfect balance of durability and comfort. Innovative head designs make dozens of cooking tasks easier. This is the perfect tool for draining and serving pasta. One large weep hole in the bottom of the fork drains water away quickly, and the extra-long handle keeps your hands clear from steaming pasta. The long tines of Calphalon's nylon and stainless steel pasta forks grip pasta securely. Your noodles never had it so good. Nylon is heat resistant to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius). Lifetime warranty.

    VillaWare Pasta Machine Motor
    VillaWare Pasta Machine Motor Save prep time and elbow grease with this powerful, quiet, 2-speed Motor. Instantly automates your hand-crank pasta machine, freeing your hands to guide pasta dough through the rollers and cutters. Pasta Machine Motor works with VillaWare's Imperial and Al Dente pasta machines. Made in Italy. Pasta machine not included.

    VillaWare Al Dente Al Dente Pasta Machine, Chrome
    VillaWare Al Dente Al Dente Pasta Machine, Chrome This Pasta Machine is constructed out of chrome-plated stainless steel, a handsome, durable machine for making fresh pasta at home! Use it to roll out your dough, then use the cutters to make strands of spaghetti and fettuccine. Features include an easy-turn plastic handle on one side and a dough roller dial on the other, plus a stainless steel with plastic clamp so it can be attached to your countertop. Other cutting heads are available.

    VillaWare 5x12.5 Ravioli Pasta Plaque
    VillaWare 5x12.5 Ravioli Pasta Plaque Make delicious, fresh, homemade ravioli easily and quickly using this specially designed Plaque. Simply place a sheet of pasta on the plaque, add your favorite filling, cover with another pasta sheet, then cut. Makes 10 large 2.5" squares.


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