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Traditional Italian Pasta: A Guide to the pasta shapes of Italy

Become a pasta square with our in depth guide!

In Italy, there are many names for the different types of pasta, which differ from region to region. It's quite complex and very tricky to list all the names related to the various shapes in different regions of Italy, but here’s our snapshot of some favourites.

Tortellini: There’s an ongoing battle between Bologna and Verona; both cities claim they invented tortellini, Italian filled pasta. Tortellini are sometimes called “ombelico”, belly button, and have a sort of ring shape. Each pillow is typically stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables and served in a beef or chicken broth. The shape is similar to cappelletti, in fact, the recipe is the same, but the cappelletti dough is thinner and has less filling in each square of the dough, making them smaller.

Tortelli and tortelloni: The term ‘tortello’ generally means some kind of filled pasta, usually square or rectangular. Generally thin, the most typical fillings are ricotta and spinach, potatoes or pumpkin, however, tortelli and tortelloni have an infinite variety of fillings.

Ravioli: These small squares of pasta are filled and served with pasta sauce or in a broth. In Sardinia, ravioli is traditionally filled with ricotta cheese and lemon zest, while in Rome they are stuffed with ricotta, spinach and nutmeg. In Liguria, ravioli are stuffed with meat or fish, in Tuscany with nettles and in Emilia-Romagna, with beef and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Agnolotti: Agnolotti are generally square in shape, and are a specialty from Piedmont. They are usually filled with braised beef, roast chicken, rabbit or sausage, with vegetables (usually spinach, escarole – a type of endive - or chard), Parmigiano-Reggiano, walnuts, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Anolini: Stuffed pasta parcels from Parma, usually prepared in a half-moon shape, were once filled with pork or horsemeat. Now they are stuffed with beef, cheese and finely chopped vegetables or, in some regions, such as Val d’Arda in northern Italy, they are filled with seasoned breadcrumbs and Grana Padano. Served in beef or capon broth, they are often referred to as ‘buoys’. 

Cappelletti and cappellacci: As the name implies (literally “little hat”), cappelletti is a filled pasta which is reminiscent of male headgear worn in the medieval period. Typical of Emilia-Romagna and of ancient origin, cappelletti are made using a classic egg pasta recipe and served traditionally in chicken broth.

Caramelle (candies): This candy-shaped filled pasta is filled and rolled like cannelloni, traditionally with ricotta, eggs, spinach and grated Parmesan.

Casônsèi: A stuffed pasta from Lombardy, there are two main regional variations. One is typical of the area of ​​Brescia, stuffed with sausage or salami, breadcrumbs, eggs and cheese, while in Val Camonica, in eastern Lombardy, Casônsèi are filled with potatoes, sausage, bologna, beets, eggs, Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Other fillings include raisins, amaretto biscuits, pear and garlic. They are typically served with melted butter, flavoured with sage leaves.

Mezzelune (half-moons): Similar to ravioli, to make mezzelune, dough is rolled out thinly and cut into circles. At the centre of each disc a little filling is spooned in, then the dough is folded over at the edges into a half-moon shape.

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