Pasta is one of the most important parts of Italian tradition, and the country is known for several different kinds of pasta dishes.
It is served with seafood, meats, vegetables and sauces, and has a special way of bringing people together. With all of the different varieties available, it’s best to know what you’re getting before you order. Here’s a list of everything you need to know about the best pasta dishes of Italy.
Since its ancient origins, Italians have transformed the "Laganon", the Roman name for a similar dish, into the baked pasta that we know today. Lasagna is a wide noodle that is baked with layers of ragù and cheese. Ragù is a traditional Italian meat sauce made with ground meat, onions, tomato souce and, often times, red wine. The layers of cheese are typically made of bechamel and parmesan. A dish of lasagna can also contain other vegetables.
Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a vegetarian pasta dish originating from the Italian island of Sicily. The pasta that is used to make this dish is macaroni, but it isn’t the typical “elbow” noodle that you find in the U.S. Rather, the macaroni noodle in Italy is short and fat with a wide hole in the middle. Mixed in with the macaroni pasta is the star of Pasta alla Norma: eggplant. The eggplant and pasta is topped with a tomato-based sauced, ricotta cheese and fresh basil. This Sicilian specialty can be found across Italy, like other Sicilian favorites, such as cannoli and arancini.
Pasta e Ceci
Quite the notorious dish, the Roman classic of Pasta e Ceci has caused many an argument on how it should be prepared. For this reason, there are many variations of the dish throughout the Eternal City. It could take weeks to try all of the different forms of Pasta e Ceci, a pasta dish featuring chickpeas as the main ingredient. Pasta with chickpeas can also be made as a soup. When making Pasta e Ceci, the chickpeas are soaked and dried during preparation. This dish also includes chopped vegetables and legumes.
Like Pasta e Ceci, Penne all'Arrabbiata is a traditionally Roman dish. Arrabbiata is the shining ingredient in this dish. Heaped on top of penne pasta is the arrabbiata sauce. In Italian “arrabbiata” means angry, so Penne all'Arrabbiata is typically mistranslated to mean “angry penne pasta.” However, arrabbiata is meant to describe the spiciness of this dish. Penne all'Arrabbiata is made with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, red chili peppers and parsley. The chili pepper is the ingredient that gives this dish its spicy kick. The penne is sometimes replaced with ziti rigati or rigatoni pastas.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
There has been some debate over the origin of Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. Although this pasta dish indisputably originates from Italy, many people think that Spaghetti Aglio e Olio was created in Naples. However, it is more commonly believed that the dish originates from the southeastern portion of Abruzzo. Spaghetti Aglio e Olio translates to "spaghetti with garlic and oil." This is truly a simple dish, although a few ingredients can be added to spruce it up. Sometimes, pecorino, or hardened sheep’s milk cheese, is added for a kick of flavor. Other times, garnishes will be added for color, like parsley.
Spaghetti alle Vongole
Spaghetti alle Vongole, also known as Spaghetti with Clams, is a popular Italian pasta dish in the Campania region, where it is a traditional part of the Neapolitan cuisine. Unlike typical spaghetti and clam dishes in America, this Italian dish is not made with a red, tomato-based sauce. Instead, Spaghetti alle Vongole is prepared with a “white sauce” made from garlic, white wine, and chili. Although this dish is wildly popular in Napoli and other cities in the Campania region, Spaghetti alle Vongole can be found throughout Italy. However, it is best to order this dish in a coastal city, where the clams will be fresh.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
One of the most popular dishes in Italy is the Spaghetti Carbonara. This pasta recipe is beloved by Italians. In fact, they have become quite protective over this jewel of their exquisite cuisine. Hence, their public anger at Gordon Ramsay, back in February, when the world-renowned chef presented a dish of carbonara that did not live up to Italian standards. This popular dish originates from Rome. Like Penne all' Arrabbiata, the sauce is what makes the dish. Carbonara is a creamy sauce made with eggs, pork cheek (guanciale), pecorino cheese and black pepper, poured over a bed of perfectly cooked spaghetti.
Troffie al Pesto
Troffie al Pesto originates from Genoa in the Liguria region, where both the pasta shape and the sauce were first made. Since its creation, pesto has evolved and become generic, to say the least. Pesto now describes any combination of herbs that is blended with olive oil, garlic, cheese and nuts. However, traditionally, pesto is made with a basil base and contains “pinoli” or pine nuts. Northern Italy is not known for pasta dishes, but rather for its rice and polenta dishes. However, Troffie al Pesto is a simple dish – sauce over pasta – that is truly delicious.
Strangozzi al Tartufo Nero
From the town of Norcia, in the Umbria region of central Italy, comes Strangozzi al Tartufo Nero or “Strangozzi with black truffles.” This type of pasta is a slightly thicker version of spaghetti. The actual word strangozzi means “strangle” in Italian, coming from the verb strangolare. It is believed that this type of pasta was served to parish priests when they ate at the homes of parishoners. The idea was to "strangle" their appetite, meaning feeding them well. However, there are many variations to this tale. On top of the strangozzi pasta, the truffles are a delicacy. All that goes into the sauce is olive oil, garlic and the black truffles.
Ziti alla Genovese
Despite sharing the same Neopolitan origins, Ziti alla Genovese and Spaghetti alle Vongole are quite different. First of all, they have differnt types of noodles, with Ziti alla Genovese being made with a long, hollowed-out pasta shape. It is also made with a different type of meat. Instead of seafood, Ziti alla Genovese is made with a beef and onion sauce. It is the perfect dish for a traditional Italian sunday lunch.