Pasta! Pasta! Enjoy all the options Italy offers

Penne Arrabiata is a classic with tomato sauce and red chili peppers.

Spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi and fettuccine, you can find all these pasta options in Italy, but wait, there’s more! Make sure your Italian adventure includes lots of different food options. When you travel to the country that made pasta famous, don’t limit yourself to what might be considered a “pasta dish” in the United States. Your travel advisor from GetAway can help you plot a course through the interesting sights in the country and give you a little advice on dinner courses, too! 

Durum wheat – green and not ripe yet – with poppies growing in the field

 First, some pasta facts and etiquette 

 Pasta is an Italian word meaning paste which refers to the dough that starts out as sort of an egg, flour and water paste. It was affordable for all because it took advantage of the country’s wheat crop. When it is dried, it has a long shelf live and the climate of the country lends itself to growing all sorts of yummy stuff that makes great toppings.  

Durum wheat close -up. Durum is latin for “hard” – making it favoralbe for pasta but less practical for bread flour

Pasta tastes different, by that we mean ‘better’ in Italy, because it is made of 100% durum wheat flour. It is dried slower and at lower temperatures which gives it a nutty flavor and it is higher in protein. When pasta is extruded, that is pushed through a die to make it a hollow tube, it has nice ridges and a rough texture on the outside. In Italy, the dies are bronze, not Teflon. So tube noodles in Italy make great vehicles for sauce because it sticks better to the inside and outside of the noodle. 

Carbonara is a pasta dish made with eggs, hard cheese, cured pork and black pepper. Simple and delicious

Pasta is the course after an appetizer and then comes the meat course. Italians eat about 60 pounds of pasta per person each year, and they still manage to fit into those skinny European jeans! That’s because a typical serving of pasta is about a cup, and then you get your meat course with a portion of vegetable and perhaps a salad. It comes on your plate or flat-bottomed bowl with the noodles, then the sauce on top and then, perhaps, cheese. It is served with a spoon and a fork, not for you to use the spoon to help twirl your spaghetti like they show in the movies, but for you to toss the ingredients. Then, you eat your pasta with a fork. Italian pasta is easier to twirl and keep on your fork because it is always served “al dente.” It has some chew to it, not like soft, squishy noodles that fall apart and can’t hold a sauce or stay on a fork. 

Making fresh pasta

Bread is served as a vehicle to sop up the sauce, not like garlic bread or breadsticks like in American restaurants. 

 So many pasta-abilities… 

 There’s thin, thick and rounded ribbon noodles, sheet noodles, thin tubes that suction up sauce and larger tube noodles made to be stuffed with tasty ingredients. Speaking of stuffed, there’s ravioli, tortelli, tortellini, tortelloni, agnolotti, orecchiette and cappelletti and then we can throw in a couple of odd shapes like rotelle, bigoli, orzo and rotini. 

Tagliatelle with ragu bolognese sauce

A word about sauces, pasta dishes can be served with butter and herbs, olive oil and herbs, tomato sauce, bolognese, ragú, Alfredo or béchamel sauce. The olive oil sauce could be infused with garlic or herbs. Ragu is a meat-based sauce where the meat is braised with tomato or wine sauce. It has some vegetables in it and that’s the difference between bolognese and ragú. Alfredo, which would be unusual to find on a restaurant menu, is a heavy cream, cheese and butter sauce while béchamel is made with milk and flour and is a light, silky sauce. 

Lasagna – layer upon layer of yummy goodness

Lasagna is considered a “Sunday” dinner dish because it is baked and in Italy, it is usually made with béchamel and tomato sauce. 

Linguini alle Vongole (clams)

So let’s talk ribbon-type noodles first. Spaghetti, linguini, vermicelli, capellini are great first course pastas and can be served with tomato, meat or vegetable sauces. Depending on what region of Italy you may be in, they could be served with pesto or green beans and potatoes, or tomatoes, peppers, olives and capers. Linguini could be served with anchovies and pine nuts, a spicy red sauce which would be called arrabbiata on a menu or with a clam sauce. 

Pesto. In our house we make it with pine nuts – what do you use?

Then there’s pasta options that are designed to be vehicles for fabulous fillings or savory sauces. Penne, cannelloni, manicotti, rigatoni, strozzapreti, ziti and tortiglioni are tubular noodles, some with ridges, some without, and if they come stuffed it’s with meat, cheese and spinach. Stuffed pasta options include ravioli, cappelletti, agnolotti, tortelli, tortellini and the slightly larger, tortelloni. Tortelli may show up as a dessert option because it is also used to describe fried pastry stuffed with cream or jam.  

Tortellini stuffed with mushroom, garlic and cheese

There’s those pastas that don’t really fit into any category except — pasta. Orecchiette is a pasta shaped like an ear that is found in the Puglia region. Often served paired with broccoli rabe or broccoli, it is sturdy enough to stand up to gorgonzola cheese. Gnocchi are darling little dough dumplings made with potatoes, spinach, eggs and ricotta. Macaroni is most often found in casseroles, fusilli is a long, thick cork-screw looking noodle considered a Sunday noodle because it usually shows up in a slow baked dish. Bucatini is a long noodle that looks like spaghetti, but it has a hole through the center and it is served with very savory ingredients like sardines, anchovies, pancetta and guanciale. 

Orecchiette with turnip greens

Whatever your pasta preference, you will surely find it in Italy. GetAway is ready to plan your next pasta-lovers adventure!  We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: or 

Wheatens don’t really make pasta, but they sure are cute and they are named after the color of Wheat!





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