Calling all Pasta Lovers, Far & Wide! Centered in our favourite country of Italy, we have created this blog post not only as a little holliday escape around Italy but to help give you a deeper understanding of that carbo-heavy, winter-loving Pasta obsession that I know you all have.
Have you ever wondered where (and why?) those delicious Pasta dumplings served in juicy sauce come from exactly? How bout Spaghetti, is it the long-lost cousin of fettuccine or were they born at the same time in different areas? And delicious potato pasta balls (aka Gnocchi) ummm, HELLO, where on earth did YOU come from!?
Before we delve into the real stuff, it’s a good fact to know that while you can basically find incredible handmade pasta across the entirety of Italy, to really get to know your Pasta’s, you’re going to have to visit each region. Why? Because depending on the area you travel to, each region in Italy has its pasta’s specialty. Not only in the actual Pasta but the sauces & ingredients they match (Oh and the wine too!).
In the North you can find pastas made from soft wheat cooked with butter and are generally a heartier dish served with meat sauce whereas in the South of Italy, the pasta is made from durum wheat, cooked in olive oil and they use more vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and garlic. The difference is explained by the various climates between the different regions, for example in the North of Italy the climate is much colder and mountainous so their dishes are often rich with meat compared to that the deep south which is much more Mediterranean, including their ability to grow the likes of Olives, Tomatoes and fresh Garlic.
The physical act of Pasta cooking in Italy ALSO differs by region. Over time, each region has developed its own recipes of their favourite National dish because before Italy was it’s on country, it was a set of small states, each State extremely proud and identified not only by it’s location and offering but also it’s cuisine and style of Pasta. (Yes, Italians are VERY Pasta proud!)
Okay. Enough on that, let’s start the journey around the country and find out where you have to travel to get the good stuff (*Note, it’s near impossible to have a bad meal in Italy, Just sayin’…)
The region of Liguria is located between France and Toscana and here you can find mainly trenettes (The long and flat pasta that is prepared with potatoes, beans and pesto), trofie (pasta shaped into small worms and made by hand), Corzetti (round pasta) and pansooti.
It is the most Northern region of Italy, meaning it snows in Winter and has a much different feel and vibe to Southern Italy. Here you can indulge in all sorts of delicious Ravioli with a large focus on meat (Hunting area’s you see!) For the actual pasta sauce, this varies from village to village but is mainly tomato based.
In this region in the North-east of Italy you can find mainly rice dishes such as the infamous Paella. The Pasta & Risotto sauces in this area are mainly fish or meat based. Oh, and you’re probably not leaving Veneto without trying the Venetian specialty of – Their most famous pasta dish made from long and thick noodles and again, mainly fish or meat based sauces (Although everywhere in Italy serves vegetarian alternatives so don’t be put off!)
Trentino- alto adige :
It is an alpine region located in the north-east of Italy. Here they are serving up Spatzle (A german-style mini gnocchi) and Canederli which are special bread dumplings ONLY found in the North of Italy. Schlutzkrapfen is another favourite of this northern Italian area which, if you can manage to get the name out, are delicious half-moon shaped ravioli pillows made with flour rye and stuffed with spinach – Drooling right now!
Friuli y Giulia :
Located next to Austria, this region has been influenced by Venetian, Slavik, German and Hungarian cuisine. With that in mind, there are very limited pasta’s on offer and they say its where ‘Hearty Mountain dishes meets Mediterranean’. Vegetarian’s this is not the area for you….
Located in the north of Italy, the area of Piemonte serves up Egg pasta that is made with, well, Eggs! You can also find agnolotti, another version of Ravioli which is pasta stuffed with meat and aromatic herbs. This concurs my understanding that if you’re a gnocchi and Ravioli lover, Northern Italy is your spot my friend!
Emilia Romagna :
The capital of this region is the city of Bologna so guess what you’re going to find here? It may not be your Mum’s but you are guaranteed one EPIC Spag Bol. If you’ve been on the hunt for a killer Spaghetti Bolognese these past few years, get Bologna on your must visit list!
This region marks the separation between the cuisine of the North and that of the South. You may find that your favourite Pasta dishes features less on the menu’s of the Toscana region, but fear not, they still have a couple of old time favourites for you! In the Tuscana region you can still find fresh pasta such as tagliatelle and pappardelle served with sauces made with all kinds of meat and fresh delicious sun-soaked tomatoes. Ahhh, sitting back under the Tuscan Sunshine with a crisp dry white and fresh home-made pasta? Hello Italian paradise.
Marche :In this mountain-lined region you will find some unique Pasta recipes including vincisgrassi (pasta similar to lasagna), passatelli (made with bread, cheese, eggs and spices and served in a broth, hmmmm interesting) and Calcioni (large ravioli stuffed with cheese and herbs). Sounds like a good all-round Italian carb-loading feast to me! Umbria:First famous for its truffles, in Umbria you will find some unique pasta such as strangozzi (A wheat flour base and eggs, cirioles and frascarelli (Which is also known as the world easiest Pasta! On that note, if you want to begin your pasta making career, Umbria might be your spot…)
Abruzzo Molise :
The most famous recipe of these regions in central Italy is spaghetti alla chitarra. The chitarra is a wooden frame on which the pasta is stretched around over iron wires to create and yep, they still make their pasta like this to this very day! The Spaghetti Alla Chitarra is generally served with a juicy rich tomato sauce.
Home to the capital of Italy, Rome, the Lazio area is home to a variety of pasta styles, shapes and sauces. Some favourites that you will find in this area is the all time fettuccine all'fredo, bucatini all'amatriciana, minestra with arzilla, spaghetti cacio e pepe, and last but not least, spaghetti alla carbonara. (My mouths watering… and hips growing at the thought of these all!)
Home to Naples (Which if you don’t know – is home to the best pizza in the world!) this region is considered to be the capital of dry pasta…. Meaning they’re down to dry their past before cooking & consuming (Not literally eating crunchy dried pasta like SOMEONE did when they were a child….) Indeed, it’s endless warm weather is the perfect place to dry out Pasta and because of this, the region is known as the birthplace of industrially produced and dried pasta (And thank goodness for that, now we get to reap the rewards all the way down under!)
We find in this region pasta made with semolina orecchiette (little ear shaped pasta with tunip tops), recchie, cicatelli and strascinati. It’s coastal location means that you will find many dishes including seafood in the Puglia region as well as Olive Oil, Garlic and fresh vegetables.
Further South in the Calabria region, they are well known for their spicy and full cuisine. They create pasta dishes that share rich and delicious ingredients such as garlic, sun dried tomatoes, hot chilli peppers and Oil. A favourite Pasta dish of this region is linguine alla mollica… Spicy tomato based Pasta say what? BRB…
Sicily is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea at the bottom of Italy mainland. It’s cuisine has been through some adaptations over the centuries due to its locationa nd history haven't been invaded by several countries including Carthaginians, Greeks, Arabs, Spanish. With that in mind, you shall not be disappointed with your culinary delights on this beautiful island. In Sicily you will find almost every dish includes Seafood, can be accompanied by an Arancini and is always sloshed down with a granita. Vegetarians beware, Seafood is VERY much apart of the Sicilian way of life….
It is an island rich in original recipes that havn;t changed for centuries. On this almost tropical island, one can find Malloreddus (pasta shaped small gnocchi made with durum semolina and saffron – yes friends SAFFRON) and the delicious culurzones (ravioli stuffed with potato and mint with a tomato sauce.) I think it’s fair to say we’re not going hungry in Italy. Am I right? Now…. What about Pizza?
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