When it comes to pasta, Italy is unquestionable. As the world’s largest producer and consumer, at around 25 kg per person annually, Italians are probably the only people who enjoy eating pasta more than once a day.
For Italians, pasta is always considered a dish in itself and not as a basic carbohydrate to accompany side dishes. Pasta in Italy is served after an appetizer and before a meat or fish dish.
With over 300 different forms, from the most common of which are spaghetti and rigatoni to the oddly named variant of fresh pasta, the possibilities for combinations of ingredients are almost limitless. The following is a typical Italian pasta preparation that you may have never heard of.
- Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a specialty dish from the Sicilian city of Catania that combines a traditional Mediterranean product, namely eggplant. The name was inspired by Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian poet and writer.
He compared this dish to Bellini’s masterpiece “Norma” when he first tasted this sumptuous dish. Like most Italian pasta, the ingredients are not much.
But what makes every Italian pasta dish so delicious is the quality of the product and the combination with the right variations of pasta to produce an appetizing taste. The ingredients are eggplant, ripe tomatoes, salted ricotta, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Before cooking, add salt to the eggplant and let it sit for a while to release some of its bitter juice. Cheap, tasty, easy to make, and suitable for vegetarians, this delicious yet simple dish has always been loved by many.
While tomatoes are a staple of Naples and Southern Italian cuisine, Pecorino cheese and guanciale, a pork preserve made from pork cheeks, are staples in Rome. Starting from these two very tasty ingredients, some delicious pasta recipes were born.
One of them is amatriciana. Many Italians still fight over how to name it, with or without the initial ‘a’ (matriciana). But the name refers to the mountain village of Amatrice, where the finest guanciale originate.
This is one of the most popular Roman recipes. This rich and flavorful Italian pasta dish is made with tomato sauce, crunchy small pieces of guanciale, and generously grated Pecorino cheese.
An old version of the recipe called gricia, which is still very popular in Roman restaurants, does not include tomatoes and adds other ingredients such as garlic or onions that every Italian foodie doesn’t like.
Amatericiana sauce can be used both with long pasta, such as spaghetti or bucatini (which are thicker with a hole in the middle), and short pasta, namely rigatoni (a ridged pasta that holds the sauce better).
- Ziti alla Genovese
This Italian pasta preparation can be confusing because Genovese sauce bears the name of the city of Genoa in northern Italy, but the aroma of this dish comes from Naples in southern Italy.
Both the name and the recipe may be of Genoese origin being introduced to Naples by sailors arriving from Liguria. Today, however, there is no trace of a dish like this in Genoa.
But pasta alla Genovese is the highlight of a Neapolitan Sunday lunch. Chopping up homemade ziti (long tubular pasta that resembles large macaroni that must be cut into small pieces to cook and eat) is part of a local tradition.
This rich, onion-based sauce is simmered for hours along with chopped carrots and celery, cuts of bacon, and chunks of lard.
The result is a thick, creamy sauce with onions that melt and the meat is soft and easy to tear.
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino is often sprinkled over pasta. The sweet young onions found growing in Campania are perfect for cooking this particular dish.
- Orecchiette con le Cime di Rapa
A product of Puglia’s Cucina Povera or “poor people’s cuisine” is this dish that relies on ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available to people in the region, such as broccoli rabe and breadcrumbs made from old bread.
This Italian pasta preparation is made by boiling the leaves and florets of broccoli rabe quickly. This helps soften the leaves while retaining their color and then set them aside.
The orecchiette is then cooked in the previous broth while the garlic, anchovies, and chili flakes are cooked in olive oil. These three components are cooked together and topped with breadcrumbs instead of cheese. The result is a paste with a satisfying bitter, spicy and savory taste.
- Cacio e Pepe
This ancient dish, which dates back to Roman times, is considered one of the simplest and most satisfying Italian dishes. Cacio e Pepe consists of pasta which is usually spaghetti, aged Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and lots of black pepper.
Because the ingredients are easy to carry and do not spoil, this dish was once a favorite dish of Roman shepherds.
Hot pepper protected the shepherds from the effects of cold weather at night. While pasta gives them the carbohydrates they need to do their hard work.
Yet this simple meal is so delicious that famed chef and television personality, Anthony Bourdain, described it as “could be the greatest thing in the history of the world.”
- Rigatoni con la pajata
Rigatoni con la pajata is a classic dish of the Roman Cucina povera. La pajata is the term for the intestines of a calf that is fed only with its mother’s milk and never eats grass. The intestines are cleaned and skinned, but the milk they drink is left inside.
When cooked, the combination of heat and enzymes thickens the milk, creating a thick, creamy, ricotta-like sauce.
Not many places now place this dish on their menu, but fans of this menu, claim that the pajata are cooked with onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, white wine, lardo, and spices served over rigatoni is a true delicacy.
- Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola
Tagliatelle alla boscaiola is a delicious Italian pasta dish made with porcini mushrooms. In various regions of Italy, this dish is made in a Bianco version, with heavy cream, or in Rosso, with tomatoes.
The variations on this popular recipe are so endless that the dish is often seasoned with onions, shallots, pepper, salt, chopped parsley, white wine, sausage, or pancetta.
Usually, tagliatelle alla boscaiola is prepared in the fall when fresh porcini mushrooms are available in Italy. However, dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in water) can also be used.
- Pasta e Ceci
This is an Italian minestre tradition, pasta e Ceci is made by cooking pasta in a kind of broth along with other ingredients such as vegetables, potatoes, or beans. This combination of chickpeas and pasta is a simple, delicious, hearty, and incredibly satisfying recipe.
The secret lies in using good-quality dried chickpeas, strong extra virgin olive oil, and a sprig of rosemary for added flavor. Usually, short pasta or spaghetti cut into pieces are used for minestre.
While northern Italians usually eat it in a more liquid form, in southern Italy a thicker and creamier version of pasta e Ceci is preferred.
The thickness of this pasta results from mixing a few peas and slowly cooking the pasta with a little water or stock until it is half cooked and let it sit for a while.
Vincisgrassi is a traditional Italian pasta dish that originated in Marche. This multi-layered baked lasagna dish has no definite recipe as each local chef and kitchen makes their version.
However, apart from lasagna pasta sheets, most versions of vincisgrassi include béchamel and ragù sauces containing pancetta, prosciutto Crudo, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, white wine, tomato puree, and chicken offal.
There is also a version with the addition of ground beef, brain, sweetbreads, and chicken liver. Once mixed and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the vincisgrassi is slowly roasted in the oven until the top is golden.
This Italian pasta dish is said to have been named after the Austrian Prince, Alfred Zu Windisgrätz, who led the troops that occupied Ancona in 1799.
- Ravioli alla Genovese
Ravioli alla Genovese is one of the traditional Ligurian favorites and Christmas classics. Generally, this Italian pasta preparation contains a mixture of meat, endive, and borage. Ravioli alla Genovese is served with a sauce called Tocco or tuccu in the Genoese dialect.
That’s why this pasta preparation is also known as ravioli al tocco. Tocco is a sauce prepared with one piece of meat and then cooked for hours at a very low temperature. The sauce is used to flavor the ravioli, while the meat is partially used for the filling.
Meanwhile, some other meat is served as the main dish. Topped off with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano, the ravioli alla Genovese is a truly authentic gastronomic experience and a must-try when visiting Genoa.
There are many types of processed pasta because the pasta itself has many forms and can be combined with various ingredients. The names of the typical Italian pasta preparations above may be a bit foreign to your ears. But if you visit an authentic Italian restaurant, you can enjoy one of the menus mentioned above.
Are you craving Italian pasta after reading the reviews above? Immediately visit an Italian restaurant in your city or immediately search for the menu on the internet and experiment at home. Good luck!