One of Italy's greatest gifts to the world, and a culinary science unto itself: each region, and sometimes each valley, each village has its own form, or slight variant, or slightly different way of saying the same thing. And that's just the shape; add endless variants on endless types of broth or sugo or ragù and it's enough to drive your honest Italian food decoders crazy (that's pazzo, or matto).
What makes Italian dried pasta so good is that it's made with durum wheat semolina, raised in the Mediterranean sun; it gives the pasta its slightly rough, sauce-clinging texture.
Somewhat confusingly, pasta can also mean the filling (or ripieno) that goes inside ravioli etc, as well as any kind of dough or batter, or even paste, as in English (ie pasta di mandorle, or almond paste). It also refers to a pastry or the curd of a cheese.
pasta alla Norma: see Norma
pasta al ceppo: shaped like cinnamon sticks
pasta all'uovo: golden egg pasta, softer than dried pasta. Delicious with sauce, but not good for baked dishes or salads.
pasta al tartufo: pasta flavoured with truffles
pasta colorata: pasta coloured and flavoured with beets, spinach, carrots, etc.
pasta corta: short pieces of pasta, too big for soup (short crust pastry is pasta frolla)
pasta fresca: fresh pasta
pasta fritta: another name for coccoli
pasta in bianco: plain, with just butter or olive oil
pasta liscia: smooth pasta (as opposed to rigata)
pasta lunga: long pasta, in form of tubes, ribbons, or rods like spaghetti
pasta nera: black pasta flavoured with cuttlefish ink, served with seafood
pasta rigata: with ridges, to help make the sauce stick
pasta secca: dried pasta
pasta sfoglia: puff pastry
pasta stesa (or spianata or tirata): rolled-out pastry
The most common phrase spoken on mobile phones in Italy, as people return home from work and carefully calculate exactly how many minutes it will take before they sit at the table, is 'Butta la pasta!' ('Throw in the pasta!').
Images by: Nnaluci, Creative Commons License