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Italian happy fuel

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 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!').

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Nnaluci, Creative Commons License