Italian Pasta and Pasta Sauce Recipes

While noodles can be found around the world, pasta specifically refers to noodles from Italy. The two most common varieties of noodles in Italy are either dried or fresh. Fresh Italian pasta recipes are made from durum wheat flour with eggs, whereas dried pasta is made with semolina flour moistened with water before shaping and dehydrating for long term storage. Less common varieties of pasta may include noodles from buckwheat flour or gnocchi, a hand formed dumpling made with some flour and generally either mashed potatoes or ricotta cheese. Pasta is either extruded, cut or can be rolled into sheets for filling with other ingredients.

Pasta can be found in each region of Italy, but there is a wide variety in types thanks to differences in climate and outside influences. Pasta sauce recipes may include olive oil, butter, tomatoes and other vegetables, cheese and red meat. Sugo all'amatriciana is one of the most well known pasta sauce recipes. This piquant pecorino and hot pepper flavored sauce is made from tomatoes and guanciale, salted pork cheek, similar to bacon.

Spaghetti and maccheroni are eaten in Calabria, the region found on the “toe” of the Italian “boot”. Less familiar shapes of dry pasta include the fancifully named ricci di donna (lady’s curls) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (priest’s hairs). Pasta sauce recipes are made from meat and vegetables, including the well known meat sauce ragù alla bolognese. Snails are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and served with a tube shaped pasta called perciatelli. Rigatoni is served with a hearty sausage sauce with fresh ricotta and plenty of grated pecorino. The local Italian pasta recipes for lasagne include mushrooms, artichokes, peas, sliced boiled eggs, pork and mozzarella cheese in the filling.

Traditionally, while Emilia Romagna’s preferred starches were gnocchi, rice or polenta, fresh pasta has been gaining in popularity. Spinach flavored egg pasta is used in the local version of lasagne. Italian pasta recipes layer these noodles with creamy béchamel and a hearty meat sauce. Tagliatelle, a favorite pasta shape, is often served with a rich sauce made with grated cheese, egg yolks and cooked chicken livers.

Several Italian pasta recipes are wrapped in a pie crust and baked. These dishes, known as pasticcio, may be flavored several different ways. Pasticcio di tortellini is a classic dish that mixes cheese, broth and ragù mixed with bread crumbs and white truffles with pasta before topping with pastry.

Many of the popular Italian pasta recipes from this region are filled. Tortelli are stuffed with greens and ricotta cheese and served topped with butter. Anolini contain vegetables and meat with herbs and are served with grated cheese in chicken soup. Turkey and pork dumplings known as cappelletti may also be served in broth, but may be in a hearty pork and tomato sauce as well.

Cappellacci, or big hats, are served with fresh squash.  Little hats, or cappellette, are stuffed with ground meat and cheese bound together with eggs and bread crumbs. Squash is also used in tortelli de zucca. These pockets are filled with a savory filling of pureed winter squash, grated cheese, and finely crushed amaretti cookies. Some versions of this pasta contain mostardo, a regionally loved preserve made from mustard flavored candied fruit. These are generally served bathed in a sauce made from melted butter and fried sage leaves.

Italian pasta recipes in Emilia Romagna may not always be served stuffed. Pisarei e fasò is a dish of rounds of fresh noodle served in a bowl with tomato sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and red borlotti beans. A dish known as garganelli is made from a tomato and herb flavored béchamel with assorted meats including veal, chicken liver and prosciutto.

Northwestern Italy is home to Liguria. This tiny coastal region is known for pasta sauce recipes based on pesto. This fresh herb puree is often made with fresh basil, garlic and olive oil, though there are other variations. Trenette, a dry pasta, is often served with fresh green beans and young potatoes topped with olive oil and pesto.

Another of the popular Italian pasta recipes in Liguria is pansòuti con la salsa di noci. This filled pasta is stuffed with cheese and an herb blend made with chicory, chervil and borage. Pasta sauce recipes for this generally include walnuts and grated cheese.

Other Italian pasta recipes served in this area of northern Italy include corzetti. These discs of fresh pasta are embossed with decorations to create indentations that help more sauce cling to the noodles. Paper thin sheets of pasta with fresh herbs rolled into the dough are known as mandilla de saea, or silk handkerchiefs.

Many Italian pasta recipes are enjoyed in other countries, though the recipes are often modified to suit local palates. Even though they are popular in the United States, chicken and pasta recipes are not traditional Italian pasta recipes. There are no Italian pasta recipes with chicken.

Pasta alla carbonara is a dish made in Italy from guanciale, eggs and grated cheese with liberal amounts of black pepper. American recipes have altered it to make a cream and butter based sauce with bacon, often adding mushrooms, peas or broccoli for color.


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