There are few things as quintessentially Italian as pasta. Correspondingly, at Limoncello we sell a wide variety of pastas dried and fresh. But not that wide. After all, at last count there were over 300 distinct forms of Italian pasta. And well over a thousand different named pastas from the various regions of Italy. Even by Italian standards this seems a little extreme, and begs the obvious question: why are there so many varieties of Italian pasta?
It comes down to three reasons:
Most Italian pastas are made from a combination of flour and water, with a little egg sometimes added as well. Sounds simple enough. Except that each region of Italy traditionally used flour from the type of grain which grows best in the region. In much of the south this is Durum wheat, making this the most common wheat flour used. But in other regions you see pastas made from other flours such as semolina, barley, buckwheat, rye, maize, and even chestnut or chickpea!
To that we can add the occasional use of egg, and variations in the proportions of flour to water which can seriously alter the texture and composition of the final product. Plus the occasional addition of other major ingredients such as spinach, cheese, mushrooms, herbs and spices – mostly in stuffed pastas.
The next driver of variation is the sheer imagination of chefs across the years. More than almost any other foodstuff, pasta can be easily shaped – so we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. The staple pastas run from flat pasta sheets like lasagna to long spaghetti strings. From bird’s nests of capelini to the long screw of fileja. And many styles of ribbons, rings and shells.
At Limoncello we also have a few favourite shapes that stand out to us: the thin twisted trofie; the rope-like loriguittas; the radiatori which look like old-school radiators; foglie d’ulivo, which look like olive leaves; and the inside joke that is capellie da chef – the chef’s hat pasta!
But what turns a few hundred pasta styles into thousands is the regional variety. There are so many regions in Italy which were historically isolated and so came up with their own specialities. Be they Balsamic Vinegar from Moderna; La Tur from Piedmont; or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
But all of these regions also produced and ate copious quantities of pasta. And each in turn would take a single pasta concept and then run with it in a different direction. The result is dozens of variations on a single theme. Be that theme ribbon shaped pasta, rings, you name it. Each one produced for centuries in only a specific, often tiny region of the land now called Italy. But each one sufficiently different from other regional varieties to deserve note as a separate and distinct variety.
So while we at Limoncello can’t show off all Italian pastas, we do have a huge variety for your dining pleasure.